Waukesha School Board votes to rename school after Les Paul
Waukesha — The Waukesha School Board voted 5-4 Wednesday to rename Central Middle School the Les Paul Middle School-Central Campus in honor of the world-famous inventor of the solid-body guitar known as the "Wizard of Waukesha."
The name-change request came from the Les Paul Foundation and had been hotly debated for months, with the majority of the criticism coming from alumni of the former high school that became Central Middle School, 400 N. Grand Ave.
Some believe Paul's name already is attached to enough institutions and programs around town.
Born in 1915, Paul, a Waukesha native, dropped out of the school now named after him — another point of consternation from critics — to chase his music career, which included experimental use of the electric guitar and multitrack recording.
He is credited with shaping the sound of rock 'n roll, and died in 2009 at the age of 94.
The Les Paul Foundation will pay all costs associated with renaming Central Middle School, including new signage and letterhead.
Sue Baker program director for the Les Paul Foundation, said the agency is pleased with the decision and hopes students will be "excited and inspired by the change."
Baker's vision for students did not appease critics who packed the meeting.
Opponents decry decision
Ben Thiel was one of 175 people who signed a petition against the name change. He said he felt devalued by the board members who voted to make the change.
"We have strong feelings about the name change. Don't they care enough to voice their approval?" he asked.
Only Baker spoke in favor of the name change during the public comment portion of the meeting.
School Board member Patricia Madden, who voted against the measure, said she naively thought there'd be strong support for the name change, but "that support never came," while many phone calls and public opposition did.
Still, board member Steve Edlund said the renaming is a way to bridge the future and the past.
"It's right to name it after someone of prominence that kids can look to as inspiration for what they can do in life," he said.
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