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updated: 8/16/2014 12:01 AM

Elgin school named for first black principal, administrator

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  • Traci O'Neal Ellis, daughter of Ronald O'Neal, talks about her father Friday during a renaming ceremony for Sheridan Elementary School to Ronald D. O'Neal Elementary School in Elgin.

       Traci O'Neal Ellis, daughter of Ronald O'Neal, talks about her father Friday during a renaming ceremony for Sheridan Elementary School to Ronald D. O'Neal Elementary School in Elgin.
    Brian Hill | Staff Photographer

  • Carolyn O'Neal, wife of the late Ronald O'Neal, right, gets a hug from Delores Mayes-Howard after Sheridan Elementary School was renamed Ronald D. O'Neal Elementary School Friday in Elgin.

       Carolyn O'Neal, wife of the late Ronald O'Neal, right, gets a hug from Delores Mayes-Howard after Sheridan Elementary School was renamed Ronald D. O'Neal Elementary School Friday in Elgin.
    Brian Hill | Staff Photographer

  • Ronald D. O'Neal

      Ronald D. O'Neal

 
 

Sheridan Elementary School is no more.

The Elgin school has officially changed its name to Ronald D. O'Neal Elementary School in honor of the district's first black principal and administrator.

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Officials hosted a back-to-school barbecue and renaming ceremony Friday at the school at 510 Franklin Blvd.

Signs, floor mats, spirit wear and other items bearing the school name have been replaced throughout the building.

Hundreds of community members including O'Neals family members were on hand for the ceremony.

"I'm excited, and it's such an honor" for the O'Neal family, said Delores Mayes-Howard, a lifelong Elgin resident who attended Sheridan Elementary as child.

Ronald O'Neal Jr., who spoke during the ceremony, remembered his father as a man who cared for the students as if they were his own children.

The current school opened in 1973. The original school, built in 1888 at 501 Ann St., was called Hill Street School. In 1898, it was renamed Sheridan Elementary School to honor Philip Henry Sheridan, a Civil War Union general who died the same year the school was built.

The Elgin Area School District U-46 school board approved the name change earlier this year. Retired U-46 teacher and administrator Ralph Vaughan of Huntley suggested it to honor O'Neal's legacy with the district.

The late O'Neal served as Sheridan's principal from 1970 to 1974. He later served as principal of Larsen Middle School and Elgin High School, and interim administrator of Gifford Street High School after his retirement.

O'Neal also had been involved with a lot of committees and served on many civic boards in the Elgin area, including Big Brothers/Big Sisters, YMCA, PADS of Elgin, the Elgin Police and Fire Commission, the city's committee to have Elgin named an "all-American" City, and the Kane County state's attorney's Second Chance Program, according to Vaughan's nominating letter.

O'Neal died in December 2009 after serving U-46 for more than 30 years.

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