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DCPS holds first public meeting on renaming Lee High School

Community members made their voices heard Wednesday night about the possibility of a name change for Lee High School.
Community members made their voices heard Wednesday night about the possibility of a name change for Lee High School.

JACKSONVILLE, Fla. – The public once again got the chance to weigh-in on renaming some of Duval County’s public schools, which are named after Confederate leaders.

Four schools had meetings Wednesday, including Lee High School, where demonstrators gathered ahead of the 6 p.m. discussion.

The Northside Coalition of Jacksonville was part of the demonstration. It supports the effort to rename the schools.

“We enthusiastically support the school board’s decision and we are encouraging them to move forward with all deliberate speed,” the coalition said Tuesday in a prepared statement.

“Black students shouldn’t have to be forced to go into schools that are named by white men who did not believe in racial equality,” said Debbie, who was demonstrating with the Northside Coalition.

News4Jax spoke with Mykyla Hooper, who was named Miss Lee High School. She attended Wednesday’s meeting.

“As Miss Lee, I would never say it’s uncomfortable to go to a school that’s named Robert E. Lee, but as Mykyla Hooper, I would like to say that this is my opportunity to create change,” she said.

Leon Barrett, a former coach and player at the high school, says it’s history that shouldn’t be erased.

“I don’t want it to change. I’ve been here 55 years to some capacity. My heart’s in it and I love it and all the alumni. If they do change, it’s not going to be the same school Robert E. Lee,” Barrett said. ”The money will drop out from the alumni and I’d hate to see that happen.”

Also at the school was the group Save the School Names. It hopes to keep the names, saying renaming the schools disrupts their historic identities and that changing them would hurt the amount of financial support the schools might receive from alumni.

Hooper said she believes the school should be renamed Sankofa. The word is derived from the words SAN (return), KO (go), and FA (look, seek and take).

“Which means if we don’t understand our history, we’re always going to be bound to repeat it.”

According to the district website, 28 meetings are scheduled for the renaming of the nine schools that bear a Confederate leader’s name.

The process for changing the names is as follows:

  • Schools will invite the community stakeholders who can verify their involvement with the institution.
  • Each school will host meetings with those stakeholders, during which the school’s namesake figure will be scrutinized and examined. These meetings will also allow stakeholders to make recommendations for alternative names to the School Advisory Committee.
  • The School Advisory Committee will create a shortlist of possible names on which the school community will vote.
  • The school will provide the results of that vote to the superintendent.
  • The superintendent will make a final recommendation on any name changes to the school board which will have the final say.

About the Author:

Reports weeknights for The Ten O'Clock News and News4Jax at 11.