9:30 p.m. UPDATE:
After months of debate, the majority of the Austin school board is in consensus to vote Feb. 26 on whether to change the names of five schools that have ties to the Confederacy.
The trustees Monday night debated issues regarding policy changes, financial costs and community input surrounding renaming schools but ultimately decided they must bring the issue to a vote in two weeks.
“I understand this is emotional but this is a real history full of real pain and real injustice,” said Trustee Ted Gordon. “This is about human dignity, the actual life of slavery…There is a direct connection to John H. Reagan and the fact that our black kids are doing 30 and 40 points worse on math and reading. So this isn’t about school pride. It’s about something much deeper.”
Trustee Yasmin Wagner said she sees “this as a social issue we can address and I’m ready to take that on,” but said she, as well as other trustees, said they must weigh the financial component of changing the names, estimated to be at least $77,000 per school, plus other costs such as uniforms.
Others raised concerns about the lack of community input in the process to rename these schools. When the board voted to rename Robert E. Lee Elementary two years ago, there was a concerted effort among community members, including some school parents, to rename that campus.
“Everything we’ve ever had to do has needed a lot more community participation and favor,” said Trustee Julie Cowan. “And for us to not take that into account this time around is a little hard for me to accept … I haven’t heard an outcry from the current students and parents at these targeted campuses like we had from Lee Elementary. So it feels different to me.”
The Austin school board tonight will again debate whether to change school names with Confederate ties.
The trustees, who have clashed over the issue in recent weeks, will consider renaming five campuses, including three high schools —Reagan, Lanier, and Eastside Memorial High School at the Johnston campus.
The board also will consider policy changes that would require all school mascots, nicknames and descriptors to “respect cultural differences and values.”
While there will be no vote taken tonight, the board could come to consensus on whether to begin the process of renaming the schools. A formal vote on starting the process could come as early as Feb. 26 and a vote on new school names could be scheduled for May 21.
The discussion is slated for just after 7 p.m. and will be streamed online.
The school board on Feb. 26 will consider whether to rename five campuses named after those who fought for the Confederacy, including:
• The Allan facility (the former Allan Elementary), named for John T. Allan, an officer in the Confederate Army.
• Reagan High School, named for John H. Reagan, the Confederacy’s postmaster general.
• Eastside Memorial High School at the Johnston campus, which is named for Gen. Albert S. Johnston.
• Lanier High School, named for Sidney Lanier, a noted poet who fought for the Confederacy.
• Fulmore Middle School, named for Zachary Taylor Fulmore, a private in the Confederate Army.