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P.S. 169 named in honor of Willie Bowman

Family members, friends and dignitaries huddled against a cold wind on Wednesday, September 30 to christen the new Willie Ella Paschal Bowman Campus, also known as P.S. 169 and home to Baychester Academy.

Bowman, who passed on December 31, 2008, was an unparalleled businesswoman, community leader and defender of civil rights in the north Bronx.

Baychester Academy principal Christine Vaughan promised Senator Ruth Hassell-Thompson, Deputy Borough President Aurelia Greene, Bronx District Attorney Robert Johnson and Community Board 12 chair Father Richard Gorman that she would honor Bowman at Edison Avenue and Boston Road.

Baychester Academy opened in September, pre-kindergarten through first grade, and in the end will incorporate pre-kindergarten through fifth grade. Vaughan asked the crowd to return for the school’s first fifth grade graduation, in 2014.

Hassell-Thompson met Bowman, who marched in Montgomery, Alabama, on the political trail. It was Bowman who brought Hassell-Thompson from Westchester County to the Bronx.

“Willie had a plan in mind,” Hassell-Thompson said.

The senator described Bowman as a stubborn do-gooder and the crowd agreed.

“When I had an office on Gun Hill Road, she was there every other day,” Hassell-Thompson said. “No one told Willie “no” – at least no one in her right mind.”

Greene praised Bowman and encouraged Vaughan to teach critical thought in addition to test skills. Johnson thanked Bowman and linked her to education.

“Even as a businesswoman, Willie was about education,” Johnson said. “She had a big family but she had time for us. She wanted us to grow up and do what we wanted to do.”

School District 11 Superintendent Elizabeth White remembered what used to stand at Boston Road and Edison Avenue.

“Baychester Diner was for the community,” White said. “I was glad to hear it would be replaced by a school.”

Sameerah Bowman observed that her mother preferred new schools to new jails. Gorman mentioned Bowman the businesswoman and Bowman the NAACP member but also Bowman “the woman of faith.”

“She knew the Golden Rule not only in her head but in her heart,” he said. “When she looked at you she looked at you with love.”

Bowman helped at Seton Falls Park and to protect battered women, friend Pauline Wilson said. Gorman and Hassell-Thompson reminded the crowd of unresolved school safety issues on Boston Road; CB12 has asked the city to install a traffic light.

Baychester Academy boasts veteran teachers and uses Education Through Music, a celebrated arts education non-profit. Students enjoy exercise after lunch: African dance, for example. Vaughan, who taught at P.S. 87 on Bussing Avenue, wants to focus on 21st century skills, in other words: technology. The school mascot is an eagle. The school song is “Baychester ROCKS!”

“I know [Vaughan] from P.S. 87,” School District 11 Community Education Council member Janie Matthews said. “She taught my son. He loves school and she started that.”

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