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New magnet school named after Lubbock-native Willie McCool

Updated: Dec. 12, 2019 at 9:39 AM CST
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LUBBOCK, Texas (KCBD) - The Lubbock Independent School Board voted Thursday morning to name its new STEAM magnet school after Lubbock-native and NASA astronaut Willie McCool.

A video showing the accomplishments of astronaut Wilie McCool is shown before the Lubbock...
A video showing the accomplishments of astronaut Wilie McCool is shown before the Lubbock School Board of Trustees takes a vote to name a new school after him. McCool died in 2003 during the Columbia space shuttle disaster.(Source: Michael Cantu, KCBD)

The current Smylie Wilson Middle School, at 4402 31st St., will open next school year as a Science, Technology, Engineering, Art and Mathematics Magnet School. The thought of naming the new school after McCool came from a social media contest LISD had.

Willie McCool, an astronaut and naval officer, was one of seven crew members who died when the Columbia space shuttle disintegrated as it was re-entering Earth’s atmosphere in February of 2003. He was 41 years old.

“We received lots of great ideas, but the one that rose to the top is the one that we’re going to share with you today,” Kathy Rollo, LISD superintendent, said before the name was officially revealed. “We had lots of positive comments about this and it is very fitting for this middle school because of the nature of the school.”

When the school opens next year it will be officially known as the Commander William C. McCool Academy. The new academy will have a focus on project-based learning and STEAM.

It’s that focus that has the parents of Willie McCool excited for the opportunities this could bring to students who attend. As a scientist and astronaut, those areas of study were most important to him.

While he was alive, Willie McCool made a point to always teach children the value of learning, especially when it came to math, science and technology. He even made a point to to encourage young girls get in those fields, which are historically male-oriented.

“He was also interested in motivating children, both boys and girls, to get more involved in studying science and technology; pointing out there are so many career opportunities and this is the wave of the future,” Adrey McCool, Willie McCool’s mother, said.

Both his parents were surprised when they were told about the school’s name. They were not even aware he was being considered by school administration.

Barry McCool, Willie McCool’s dad, said he was out in public around other people when he got the call on Monday, Dec. 9.

But, as children apply and are accepted into the school, Barry McCool said he is excited for the opportunity they have. He also added, the parents should be excited for the students and encourage them as they continue their education.

“If a student doesn’t have the support of the family it’s going to be extremely hard for them to succeed," Barry McCool said. "It’s a family affair — education — and it starts with the parents and it continues on through the children and their children.”

Related Story: Lubbock ISD to vote to turn Smylie Wilson into a STEM magnet school

Related Story: LISD board approves re-zoning Smylie Wilson Middle School

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