5 schools to shed Con­fed­er­ate names

Trus­tees will choose new ones in March af­ter pub­lic sub­mits ideas.

Austin American-Statesman - - FRONT PAGE - By Melissa B. Taboada mtaboada@states­man.com

Five Austin school district cam­puses with names tied to the Con­fed­er­acy will get new names by Au­gust un­der a pro­posal by district ad­min­is­tra­tors.

“The time has come that we ad­dress this ele­phant,” school board Pres­i­dent Ken­dall Pace said Mon­day. “We don’t need schools named for Con­fed­er­ate sol­diers and sym­pa­thiz­ers.” Schools to be re­named: ■ Rea­gan High School, named for John H. Rea­gan, the Con­fed­er­acy’s post­mas­ter gen­eral.

■ Lanier High School, named for Sid­ney Lanier, a noted poet who fought for the Con­fed­er­acy. ■ East­side Me­mo­rial High School at the Johnston cam­pus, named for Con­fed­er­ate Gen. Al­bert S. Johnston.

■ Ful­more Mid­dle School, named for Zachary Tay­lor Ful­more, a pri­vate in the Con­fed­er­ate Army. ■ The Al­lan fa­cil­ity (for­mer Al­lan Ju­nior High and Al­lan El­e­men­tary), named for John T. Al­lan, an of­fi­cer in the Con­fed­er­ate Army.

Cam­pus prin­ci­pals and ad­vi­sory com­mit­tees at each of the five schools al­ready have been con­sulted.

Ad­min­is­tra­tors will be­gin meet­ing with com­mu­nity groups and stu­dents this month to gather feed­back; trus­tees were sched­uled to dis­cuss the is­sue Mon­day night.

Ac­cord­ing to the pro­posal, nam­ing com­mit­tees would be formed in Jan­uary, the pub­lic sub­mis­sion of names would be­gin in Fe­bru­ary, and the board would vote on the name changes in March.

In May 2016, the Austin school board voted to re­name Robert E. Lee El­e­men­tary, the first time the district changed the name of a school be­cause of its ties to the Con­fed­er­acy. Af­ter months of com­mu­nity feed­back, some con­tentious, the trus­tees re­named the school Rus­sell Lee El­e­men­tary, af­ter the crit­i­cally ac­claimed De­pres­sion-era photographer who was a founder of the pho­togra- phy depart­ment at the Univer­sity of Texas.

That re­nam­ing push, like many across the na­tion, was prompted by the sum­mer 2015 at­tack on a church in South Carolina, where nine black church­go­ers were killed by a white gun­man who has been linked to a racist man­i­festo posted on­line.

At the time, some trus­tees said the is­sue wouldn’t be re­vived un­less peo­ple in the com­mu­nity asked to change the names of the other schools. Other Texas school dis­tricts, in­clud­ing Hous­ton and Dal­las, moved for­ward with name changes for their cam­puses.

But in Au­gust, af­ter a rally by white su­prem­a­cists fight-

ing re­moval of a Con­feder- ate mon­u­ment turned deadly in Char­lottesville, Va., Pace said she wanted the is­sue back on the board’s agenda.

In a tweet, Pace said, “Schools named = mon­u­ments. The time is now.”

Other board mem­bers were re­luc­tant to pick up such a con­tentious is­sue un­til af­ter the ref­er­en­dum on the $1.1 bil­lion bond pack- age, which vot­ers ap­proved Tues­day.

Trustee Ted Gor­don, who has long ad­vo­cated for such dis­cus­sions to take place, said he’s sup­port­ive of chang­ing names and said it ap­pears to be an ap­pro­pri­ate process with am­ple time for pub- lic in­put.

“I’m sure it will be con­tro- ver­sial, but it is well within the rights of the school district to de­cide whether they feel the names of the schools are ap­pro­pri­ate or not ... re­gard­ing how the school district wants it­self to be rep­re­sented and how it wants its com­mu­nity to un­der­stand its pri­or­i­ties, goals and posi- tion within the com­mu­nity,” he said.

The cost to change the school names, in­clud­ing on build­ings, gym floors, mar­quees and uni­forms, is es­ti­mated at $322,000,

about $77,000 per sec­ondary school and $13,800 for Al­lan.

Af­ter Char­lottesville, the Austin City Coun­cil and Univer­sity of Texas Pres­i­dent Gre­gory L. Fenves also took ac­tion to re­move names and like­nesses of Con­fed­er­ate fig­ures from pub­lic places.

In Au­gust, City Coun­cil mem­bers be­gan pa­per­work to re­name Robert E. Lee Road, near Zilker Park, and Jeff Davis Av­enue, near Al­lan­dale.

Less than a week af­ter the coun­cil’s ac­tion, crews worked overnight on a Sun­day at UT to re­move from the South Mall the bronze like­nesses of Con­fed­er­ate Gens. Robert E. Lee and Johnston, Rea­gan and James Stephen Hogg, the first na­tive-born gov­er­nor of Texas and the son of a Con­fed­er­ate gen­eral.

A UT spokesman said the re­moval was done af­ter dark and with­out warn­ing for pub­lic safety rea­sons, cit­ing the vi­o­lence in Char­lottesville.

PHOTO BY CHRIS MICHAEL 2009

Rea­gan High School was named af­ter John H. Rea­gan, post­mas­ter gen­eral of the Con­fed­er­acy and a leader of the Texas Demo­cratic Party.

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