A Teaneck school now bears the name of living civil right activist and local resident Theodora Smiley Lacey. The official renaming ceremony for the school was held this week.

In March, the Teaneck School Board unanimously approved a resolution renaming the building formerly known as “Eugene Field” to become the “Theodora Smiley Lacey School”. For the 2020-2021 school year, the newly renovated Theodora Smiley Lacey School will house nine kindergarten classrooms, servicing most of the 180-student population.

Renovations included new walls, floor tiling, bathrooms, electrical, plumbing, heating and refrigeration. A new elevator was also built in the school along with HVAC units.

“Do what we all learned the first day of school,” Lacey said during the renaming ceremony. “Stand in line. Play fair. Don’t hit. Clean up your mess. Don’t take things. Say you’re sorry. Live a balanced life. If we all followed these rules, what a difference we could make.”

Lacey, 88, was born in Montgomery, Ala. and was childhood friend with Rosa Parks. Lacey helped organize the Montgomery Bus Boycott in 1955. She is a graduate of Alabama State University where she majored in education and became a teacher.

Moving her family to New York in the late 1950s, Lacey eventually moved to Teaneck, NJ in 1961 and was instrumental in voting rights and fair housing, and helped to integrate schools in New Jersey. She earned a master’s degree from Hunter College and taught school. Lacey retired in 2007 after teaching since for 37 years.

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