Washington Middle School Is Officially Renamed for Renowned Pasadena Science Fiction Writer, Octavia E. Butler

Story and Photography Courtesy Pasadena Unified School District

OEB renaming group photo [Photo courtesy Pasadena Unified School District]


One Pasadena Unified middle school is proving that a name can have meaning and that change can be a good thing. From now on, Washington Middle School will be known as Octavia E. Butler Magnet, a Dual-Language STEAM Middle School. The name change became official at a ceremony at the school Thursday, September 15.

Author Ibi Zoboi pictured in front of mural (April 2022) [Photo courtesy Pasadena Unified School District]

“This evening isn’t merely about a simple name change. It’s about the kind of change that Octavia believed should begin with education, change that could be ignited by dedicated teachers and fueled by a school community. Ultimately, it’s about change that I know will come from all the amazing kids who see Octavia as a role model and can learn from her legacy,” said Dr. Brian McDonald, Superintendent of Pasadena Unified School District.

Dr. Brian McDonald [Photo courtesy Pasadena Unified School District]

Octavia E. Butler was a renowned science fiction author who began some of her early novels at Washington Junior High School. She graduated from John Muir High School in 1965 and went on to become a literary legacy. Despite obstacles of poverty and a learning disability, she achieved the highest honors in the field of science fiction writing.

Dr. Malone, Orduna, Tyron Hampton [Photo courtesy Pasadena Unified School District]

PHS 9th grader Hazel Vukojevich, who recently graduated from OEB, designed the new oak tree logo. Hazel said it is important that kids feel proud to say the name of their school and Octavia E. Butler Magnet more accurately matches the values of his alma mater.

“Octavia E Butler pursued science, literature, and change. She believed in equality and improvement and cared about the future. I feel like our new name represents the future of our school and who we want to be,” Vukojevich added.

Dr. Shannon Malone [Photo courtesy Pasadena Unified School District]

At the ceremony, which was attended by students, teachers, parents, and elected officials, Dr. Shannon Malone, PUSD Senior Director of K-12 schools and former Octavia E. Butler Magnet Principal, read a letter that Octavia E. Butler wrote in 2000 to President Bill Clinton in response to his request of some of our country’s “greatest thinkers” to predict the vision for our future. In it, she says education can change everything.

“Mr. President: Education, of course, is the key to any hope we have for a comfortable, prosperous future… Education at its best teaches us to go on learning and thus to deal with whatever the future brings… What we become depends very much on what we do now and how we educate the poorest and apparently least promising among us.”

Noemi Orduna, Judy Chu [Photo courtesy Pasadena Unified School District]

Shylo Hightower, a student at Octavia E Butler, is empowered by the school’s new namesake.

“As an African-American female in the 21st century, I feel like it is very important for people that look like me to have leadership. I am honored to say I go to Octavia E. Butler Magnet,” Hightower said.



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