Committee chooses to honor Mourning

MIAMI -- A new North Miami high school will be named after former NBA star Alonzo Mourning, rather than the first female U.S. Attorney General, Janet Reno.

A naming committee had earlier settled on the Alonzo and Tracy Mourning Senior High School Biscayne Bay Campus.

The Miami-Dade School Board on Wednesday gave it the final OK.

Mourning was a star for the Miami Heat, but it was the work he and his wife have done in local schools, including mentoring, that spurred the nomination.

Reno was a longtime Miami-Dade state attorney before serving as the country's attorney general from 1993 to 2001. She lives in the Miami suburb of Kendall.

Many in South Florida's large Cuban-American population disagree with her order to return 6-year-old Elian Gonzalez to his father in Cuba in 2000 despite protests by his family in Miami. Karp said he recognized the controversy Reno's name could spark.

"I was really hopeful to avoid any kind of a situation that would be divisive in nature and I certainly don't think she would welcome that kind of response either," he said of Reno.

The Mournings said in a statement they were honored to be considered but that they also support the school being named for Reno, saying she "has touched many lives." The couple said: "The work we do in the community is not for recognition."

School board member Martin Karp proposed the Mournings after two students suggested them. Reno's and Mourning's names were the last two considered out of about a dozen possibilities.

"They've spent more than a decade contributing directly to Miami-Dade County public schools in various ways," he said. "When you look at what they've done together, it's directly impacted children."

All but one of the other three committee members sided with Karp in naming the school for the Mournings. The former mayor of North Miami, Kevin Burns, opposed it, having proposed Reno.

Burns, who is running for the U.S. Senate seat being vacated by Sen. Mel Martinez, said the City Council in North Miami passed a resolution more than two years ago supporting naming the school for Reno. He was hopeful the board would turn down the Mourning proposal.

"If you had to compare Janet Reno's career to his career and if you picked a sports figure over an attorney general of the United States, what kind of message does that send to children?" he asked. "There's too many other people in the community that have given decades and decades in time and effort and money."