The Duval County School Board voted unanimously Monday night to change the name of Nathan Bedford Forrest High School following a long campaign by members of the community seeking that.
As the special meeting began, Superintendent Nikolai Vitti recommended the name be changed.
"It is undeniable that the name Nathan B. Forrest is divisive," Vitti told the board. "It is time for Jacksonville to move on."
Vitti also recommended that the name be changed effective with the next school year, which will allow current seniors to graduate with a diploma from Forrest.
As part of his presentation, Vitti released findings of a survey of nearly 1,600 stakeholders, with results as follows:
|Number of |
|School Advisory Council||11||64%||36%|
|Parent Teacher Association||4||75%||25%|
Many were not happy when Superintendent, Dr. Nikolai Vitti proposed changing the name.
“I’m upset because this change is being pushed politically, not by students. No student has ever come up to Westside and say, 'let’s change the name of school,'” said one attendee at the Monday’s meeting.
“I know it won’t invalidate my diploma,” said a Forrest graduate. “Well, you got to have understand there’s some kind of meaning there, my school won’t exist anymore.”
Proponents of the name change were happy to hear the Superintendent push for change.
“There are things from the past that are swept under the rug, but this is something that needs to be decided once and for all,” said a supporter of the name change.
Superintendent Vitti said the focus for the name change has to be on the kids at the school moving forward.
“It was necessary to move our city forward,” said Vitti. “This issue would’ve never stopped, would’ve continued to go to future superintendents, and it was time to be decisive and move on.”
As a result of the board's decision, Vitti will re-engage stakeholders to share their thoughts on the new name before making a recommendation to the board at its next meeting on January 7. Under board policy, schools can no longer be named for people.
The name change will go into effect in July 2014, though a new name has not been chosen yet.
Starting Tuesday and Wednesday, students at Forrest will get to vote on a new name. Thursday, Friday and Saturday, alumni and residents who live nearby the school are also invited to vote for the name change.
It will cost up to $400,000 to change everything that bears Forrest's name. Vitti said community groups have offered to pay the cost so it will not come from education funds.
The school’s new name will be announced January 17.
History of N.B. Forrest High School, name controversy
In 1971, Forrest High became integrated following a federal district court order. Today, over 1,300 students attend, with a student population that is 61.6 percent black, 22.9 percent white, 8.7 percent Hispanic, 2.6 percent Asian, 3.9 percent multi-racial and 0.3 percent Indian.