Education

Anchorage School Board approves renaming Fairview Elementary after district’s first Black teacher and principal

With a unanimous vote Tuesday night by the Anchorage School Board, Fairview Elementary School will be renamed the Dr. Etheldra Davis — Fairview Elementary School.

Davis was the first Black teacher and principal in the Anchorage School District. Her first principal job was at Fairview Elementary.

Davis died in November at age 89 due to COVID-19 complications, but her daughter Andrea Davis-Antoine said she was aware that the school might be renamed after her.

“I know she would just be so overwhelmed; she was a very humble but strong person,” Davis-Antoine said Wednesday after the vote.

Davis-Antoine attended Fairview Elementary when her mother was the principal and has “great memories” of going to school there. She said the name change is personal for her.

“I had hundreds of people, hundreds, messaging, calling ... so many messages saying congratulations,” Davis-Antoine said. “It was overwhelming, in a good way.”

Davis became the school district’s first Black teacher in 1958. She taught at Government Hill Elementary School before teaching at Willow Crest, Denali and Airport Heights elementary schools.

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She eventually became the district’s first Black principal at Fairview Elementary in 1969, and went on to other principal positions at Ptarmigan Elementary School and the now-closed John F. Kennedy Elementary School. She retired in 1980.

In addition to her teaching positions, Davis was heavily involved in the community, her daughter said. She created a coalition to help teenagers stop shoplifting, helped start a Neighborhood Watch program, and was active in extracurriculars including PTA, Fairview Community Council and Alpha Kappa Alpha, a historically Black sorority.

“My mom was always the unsung hero behind the scenes, helping people — especially when it came to education,” Davis-Antoine said. “If they wanted to become a teacher, she would help them.”

Anchorage School Board President Margo Bellamy said during Tuesday’s meeting that Davis was one of the first educators she met when she arrived in Anchorage in 1973.

“In 1985, I joined Alpha Kappa Alpha Sorority Incorporated because of her, and women like her who were trailblazers, who were brave. They were fierce,” Bellamy said.

Superintendent Deena Bishop made the recommendation to rename the elementary school in August. She had appointed a committee for the renaming process, required by school board policy, made up of five community members and two school district staff. Antoine-Davis was on the committee.

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