Guest Commentary: New school should be named after longtime principal


Founding members of the Delaware Legislative Black Caucus, Sen. Darius Brown, Sen. Elizabeth “Tizzy” Lockman and Rep. Stephanie T. Bolden are Democrats serving portions of the Christina School District and The Bancroft School community.

On behalf of the family of Maurice Pritchett Sr. and in accordance with the renaming procedure of the Christina School District, we fully endorse the renaming of The Bancroft School after Mr. Maurice Pritchett Sr. and respectfully ask the community to sign a petition to support this renaming.

As the principal of The Bancroft School from 1975 to 2005, Mr. Pritchett’s unyielding commitment to excellence, his passion for lifting up families and his compassion for those in need literally changed the trajectory of lives throughout our community, our city and our state.

Now — just a few months after his passing — our city has an opportunity to repay Mr. Pritchett for his decades of love and commitment by naming Wilmington’s first new school in more than 50 years in his honor.

After the last beam was lifted into place a few weeks ago, the Christina School District announced it is seeking input from the community on a name for the new $84 million school that will replace The Bancroft School at the start of the 2024-25 school year.

For many of us, the choice is obvious.

Mr. Pritchett was raised on Wilmington’s East Side, and he credited his strong Black male teachers at Bancroft — then a junior high school — for setting him on a path that would see him return the favor a thousand times over.

“Pritch” — as he was known to so many — went from being a high school basketball star at Howard High to earning a full scholarship at Delaware State University. There, he earned a degree in elementary education and won the heart of Juanita Sampson, who became a longtime special education English teacher at Glasgow High and the mother of their four children

Mr. Pritchett eventually found his way back to Bancroft as a community school director. Walking the walk of self-improvement that he so often preached, he earned a master’s degree in educational administration from Villanova University, before becoming vice principal and principal at his alma mater.

There, he led Bancroft through desegregation in 1978. He solicited donations from downtown businesses to build a clothes closet for needy students. He lobbied business leaders to donate their time as one-on-one reading mentors. He organized a Saturday Academy to provide struggling students with the extra help they needed to succeed. He volunteered with the Boys & Girls Club.

He co-sponsored a basketball league for Wilmington students in grades 4-6 that included field trips to University of Delaware football games and holiday shopping trips, where children were given $25 each to buy presents for their parents.

He not only mentored students, but he also took care of them and their families, whether it was helping out with the groceries, getting them a winter coat or just serving as an exceptional role model for those young people who desperately need someone to look up to.

Mr. Pritchett’s dedication to his students earned him more than 20 honors over his career, including Delaware’s National Distinguished Principal award in 1994.

It also earned him the attention of presidents. Bill Clinton once called him after hearing White House chef and former Bancroft student Charlie Redden praise his former principal. George W. Bush visited Bancroft to see for himself how Mr. Pritchett had turned a school in the heart of Delaware’s largest city into a community.

A member of the Delaware Basketball Hall of Fame and Delaware Afro-American Sports Hall of Fame, Mr. Pritchett also earned the Christina Cultural Arts Center’s lifetime achievement award and the Dr. Al O. Plant lifetime achievement award, and was named one of the 100 African American Men of Distinction by the Afro-American Historical Society.

In other words, Maurice Pritchett is exactly the kind of man who we want young Black children looking to as an example of Black excellence for years to come.

With your help, we can make sure his contribution to our community is never forgotten.

Please visit the Christina School District website at for the renaming effort, or contact primary petition organizers Donna Brown at or Janis McElrath at to add your name to the petition, which will be submitted to the Christina School District before the deadline July 14.

Together, we can ensure the legacy of Maurice Pritchett Sr. continues on for years to come.

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