In a well-attended board meeting at Conrad High School last night, the Dallas ISD trustees unanimously approved a resolution that would waive parts of the current policy and require four elementary schools named for Confederate generals to present a new name to the board this winter. This time next year, Robert E. Lee, Stonewall Jackson, Albert S. Johnston and William L. Cabell elementary will be known as something new.
The resolution originally stated that the changes must be made by December, but the deadline for a new name has been pushed to February. The current policy states that the board will vote on school name changes at the end of the spring semester, but trustees wanted to move it up to give schools time to get new signage and letterhead before the start of the new school year.
Of the citizens who spoke about the renaming process, they were evenly split for and against the resolution. Stonewall Jackson parent David Blewett, who penned an op-ed for the Dallas Morning News on the subject, felt that it was wrong to alter the process that has been set in place, and feels like the resolution singled out his children’s school. The resolution says that the new name can not be any part of the school’s current name, and many Stonewall Jackson parents wanted to keep “Stonewall” in the new name.
“Under your current resolution, you would take power from our local community, and give it to yourselves,” he said.
Stonewall parent Mary Ann Parrish said the school might not change its name unless it was forced to, and described a poll presented to the Site-Based Decision Making Committee where two-thirds of the teachers wanted to keep the name. Parrish said the Stonewall Jackson principal Melanie Mans wanted the name change to be left to the teachers.
“It is time to change a name that will heal the wounds of our past,” she said.
The resolution states that the school will appoint a committee made of parents, teachers and administrators in the weeks ahead to choose a new name by mid-February. Robert E. Lee elementary has already submitted paperwork to become Geneva Heights, and East Dallas Trustee Dustin Marshall confirmed that Lee has the option of keeping the current name change in place or starting over with a new committee.
There has been some resistance against Lee’s new name. Neighbor Kyle Rains has shared a petition to name the school Mae Frances Wesley Elementary School after a teacher who taught there for 25 years, which has received 504 signatures so far. Rains wrote on Facebook, “I don’t think there was enough reaching out to alumni in the renaming process of Lee Elementary and many support honoring Mae Frances Wesley.”
William Olsson, a Lee alum who started the petition before the name was chosen, says it was not meant to be used in opposition to the chosen names or to point out that alumni were not included in the process.
City Councilman Philip Kingston, whose district includes both Lee and Stonewall, has voiced opposition against the name Geneva Heights as well. Kingston wrote on Facebook that he hopes the school will be named for someone who made contributions to Dallas ISD. He also noted that Geneva Heights was not a regularly used name for the area. “The idea of renaming Lee ‘Geneva Heights’ is particularly weird. Literally no one ever uses that name for the surrounding neighborhood,” he wrote.
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