Proposal to Rename Melbourne High School After Astronaut Joseph Acaba Rescinded
By Space Coast Daily // February 9, 2022
Proposal was filed 17 months ago by Teresa Lopez on behalf of The United Third Bridge
BREVARD COUNTY, FLORIDA – The proposal to rename Melbourne High School after current Astronaut and former teacher Joseph Acaba has been rescinded.
The proposal was due to go before the school board in March, but recent developments which follow an amazing story that ended in Star City, Russia, brought an end to the proposal.
Teresa Lopez, who filed the motion 17 months ago on behalf of The United Third Bridge, rescinded it in a text to Brevard Public Schools Superintendent Mark Mullins and BPS Board member Matt Susin before the school board meeting on Tuesday evening.
Susin said the Brevard County School Board has a policy that has no checks and balances that allows an individual to file a petition to rename a school.
“This policy calls for three community meetings over 18 months to gauge the support from the community which ultimately comes to the school board for a vote,” said Susin.
About two weeks ago, Marisa Kahn assisted Susin and tracked down Acaba in Russia, who is currently working in Star City near Moscow overseeing NASA operations.
“During my conversation with Mr. Acaba, I was surprised he said he hadn’t been contacted by Lopez’s group to see if he was in agreement to name the school after him,” said Susin.
“He went on to say he was flattered to have the offer but didn’t want the school named after him because he feels that Melbourne High has such rich traditions and that it probably wouldn’t be a popular idea.”
Acaba, a former science teacher at Melbourne High School, was selected as an astronaut by NASA in 2004 and has logged a total of 306 days in space on three missions.
In 2009, he flew aboard STS-119 on the Space Shuttle Discovery to the International Space Station. In 2012, Acaba flew aboard a Soyuz spacecraft to the space station where he worked as Flight Engineer for the Expedition 31/32. He most recently served as Flight Engineer on the International Space Station for Expedition 53/54.
“I just felt that his name was being tarnished because there was absolutely no support for the renaming,” said Susin.
“After a long conversation with him on the phone, he said nobody ever reached out to him to ask if he wanted the school named after him. He was flattered, but after I listened to his passion, I took the chance and asked him to work with our schools.
“He was enthusiastic and agreed to work with our district to create an Astronaut STEM initiative for our students and will be back from Russia in April to discuss with our district staff. I can see why Mrs. Lopez wanted to name the school after him because he is such an amazing human being with a lifetime of public service and would be a great representative for our strong Brevard Latino community,” said Susin.
The proposal had gone to three community meetings where more than 99 percent of the more than 1,000 speakers, attendees, and online survey comments were against the renaming. The meetings drew local elected official Melbourne Mayor Paul Alfrey who passionately spoke out against the renaming at one of the community meetings.
“I am so happy it is rescinded,” said Alfrey. “The entire Melbourne City Council voted unanimously against this proposal and I’m glad to see it finally come to an end.”
Susin had previously requested the board to rescind the proposal three times in separate meetings over the past year without success. He has since asked the school board to rewrite the renaming policy to include a set of requirements and school board approval before it goes to the community meetings for input. That workshop has been tentatively set for March.