Oshkosh’s New Public Middle School to Honor Vel Phillips

Vel Phillips Middle School will open in Fall 2023. Students currently enrolled at Merrill and Webster Stanley middle schools will attend this state-of-the-art facility.

Oshkosh’s new public middle school will be named after Vel Phillips, a civil rights leader, legal pioneer, and philanthropist. The Oshkosh School Board amended the original naming recommendation - put forth by its Facilities and Finance Committee - and chose to honor Phillips after a robust discussion.

Phillips was the first African American woman to attend and earn a law degree from the University of Wisconsin's Law School. In addition, Phillips was the first woman and African American to be elected to the Milwaukee Common Council, was Wisconsin's first African American Judge when appointed in 1971, and served as Wisconsin's first woman and non-white Secretary of State for two terms. 

School Board President Bob Poeschl shared that naming the school after Vel Phillips demonstrates the District’s commitment to all means all. “All students deserve to feel affirmed and inspired in their learning environment,” stated Poeschl. “Vel Phillips was a trailblazer and her legacy of firsts is quite remarkable. With this naming decision students will have the opportunity to learn about Phillips and to hopefully explore equity and civic activity in the same manner as their school’s namesake.”

School Board Members also approved naming the school’s media center after Jessie Jack Hooper, an American activist and suffragist and former resident of Oshkosh, Wisconsin; and naming the school’s Science Technology Engineering Arts and Math lab after Paul Poberezny, an American Aviator, military veteran, aircraft designer, entrepreneur, and former resident of Oshkosh, Wisconsin. The additional naming recommendations were made based on community support for all three of the name finalists and in an effort to further recognize those who have had a significant impact in Oshkosh and Wisconsin.

“Each of these individuals are worthy of being recognized and honored,” stated Poeschl. “Their names and legacies will live on, and students will not only know who they were and the impact they had but they will be inspired to follow their own passions and impact the world around them as well.”

The OASD is grateful for all who participated in this naming process. This is an exciting time for the entire community and its continued engagement and support is appreciated. In the coming months, students who will attend the new middle school will take part in the process of choosing the school’s mascot and colors. 

Vel Phillips Middle School will be located adjacent to the current Merrill Middle School site on the corner of Kentucky Street and Nevada Avenue. Slated to open for the 2023-24 school year, it will feature state-of-the-art spaces and resources. Groundbreaking is expected to occur in the Spring 2022. Once open, this new middle school will become home to students currently enrolled at Merrill and Webster Stanley middle schools. Kristi Levy, current principal at both Merrill and Webster middle schools, was named principal of the new school in July 2021. 

The new middle school is one component of the first phase of the District’s long-range facilities plan, which received voter support through the success of the District’s 2020 capital referendum. To learn more visit www.oshkosh.k12.wi.us/referendum.