Trenton has its heroes, role models, and community members who worked tirelessly to imagine a better life in Trenton; last week, the Trenton Public School system honored two of them.

The Trenton Board of Education voted unanimously during the May 23 meeting to Columbus Elementary School and Wilson Elementary School. Effective Friday, July 1, 2022, Columbus Elementary School was renamed Dr. Crosby Copeland Jr. Elementary School; and Wilson Elementary School was renamed Darlene C. McKnight Elementary School.

On Wednesday, August 31, Trentonaians gathered to witness the renaming of the two schools; there were speeches from every aspect of government, teachers, principals, students, and family as they celebrated the life and legacy of these two Trenton heroes. 

“It’s important to say you have the congresswoman here, you have your state representatives here, you have your county reps here, and you have your mayor here. We have all of you here. (Dr. Copeland) did monumental things for our community… and I just want to say thank you,” Assemblywoman Reynolds-Jackson said 

Dr. Crosby Copeland was born and raised in Trenton and attended TPS. Copeland served in the Army before dedicating himself to teaching. Shawn Copeland, the youngest son of Dr. Crosby Copeland Jr., explained that his father was everything you would want as a father. 

“My dad was a beautiful man. He’s everything that you envision as a father. He was kind and stern when he needed to be. He was a man’s man, and he was truly somebody that any kid would want to emulate,” Copeland said. “This is such an honor for my family…This is probably one of the biggest honors that anyone can get from the city or the school board, in my opinion. And the only thing I can say is that we’re very proud today.”

 Dr.Copeland’s teaching career consisted of many positions: an elementary teacher, a junior high physical education teacher, vice-principal of Jr. High School #2, Principal of Parker Elementary and Junior High School #1, and Principal of TCHS. 

James Earle, Superintendent of Trenton Public Schools, was on the committee to select the renamings of the two schools.

“We think, you know, the more students know about their history, the more they can invest in their communities, they start to understand what individuals from their communities did in their past, and they get a chance just to know how to make their circumstances better and the lives of others better,” Earle said 

Dr. Copeland later served as the superintendent of TPS for eight years. John Day, a retired NJ State Trooper, was a Trenton Central High School student during Dr. Copeland’s tenure as Principal. 

“He was a man amongst men. He had respect and demanded structure, and I emulated that because he carried himself as a man, and me as a teenager and a young man coming into my belt, A man like Dr.Copeland was very important in my life, very inspirational, and made me be the man that I am today,” Day said. 

Dr. Copeland was recognized statewide for presenting public testimony to local, state, and national educational groups, commissions, and legislative committees regarding issues related to urban education, equity of resources, funding, students at risk, and drop-out prevention. 

Darlene C. McKnight lived in Trenton for 55 years, where she was known as a well-loved and respected activist. She did extensive work in the community with numerous agencies and advocacy groups to make Trenton a safer place for all adults and their children. She was a parent liaison at TPS and later became a parent volunteer, school representative, and parent organizer, always advocating for improvement in conditions impacting the Trenton children. 

She fought to have advocacy training for parents/guardians as partners, to improve their children’s educational and social success in school. McKnight was an affiliate of many community partnerships and received many awards/honors from those in the community who respected and admired her. She passed away on March 14, 2022. 

To learn more about McKnight, read this TrentonDaily Article.

Community Groups Honor the Light of Darlene McKnight and Grace Crossland


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