Chamber of Commerce backs change for schools named for confederate soldiers

Chamber not taking position on schools named for Andrew Jackson, Jean Ribault

JACKSONVILLE, Fla. – The Jacksonville Chamber’s board of directors unanimously passed a resolution Friday urging the Duval County School Board to change the names of the six public schools that are currently named after Confederate soldiers.

The chamber board voted as a small group of protesters disrupted a joint City Council, School Board meeting after they were told there would not be an opportunity for public comments.

Last year, Duval Schools began a lengthy renaming process to include community meetings as well as surveys from residents, students and alumni on possible names. A series of public meetings was held at each school. Duval County Schools Superintendent Dr. Diana Greene is expected to make a recommendation to the School Board next month for formal votes in June.

“This is an economic development issue,” Jax Chamber Chairman Henry Brown, who also president and CEO of Miller Electric, said in a statement. “We are asking companies to invest here and for top talent to move and live here. We say that we are open to everyone and I believe that we are. But, right now, we have six school names that tell African Americans otherwise.”

Currently, there are 12 schools in Florida named for Confederate soldiers, according to the Southern Poverty Law Center. Six of those schools are in Duval County.

“Our public schools should reflect the open, inclusive community that we are,” Brown said. “The Chamber is taking action to expand economic opportunity to everyone in our community, including creating the Lewis and White Business League and expanding the role of the JAX Chamber Foundation. Supporting the name change of these six schools is one more way for the business community to say that everyone is welcome in Jacksonville and everyone can succeed here.”

The schools are:

  • J.E.B. Stuart Middle School
  • Jefferson Davis Middle School
  • Joseph Finegan Elementary School
  • Kirby-Smith Middle School
  • Stonewall Jackson Elementary School
  • Robert E. Lee High School

The school renaming process also includes Andrew Jackson High School and Jean Ribault middle and high schools, but the chamber is not taking a position on those names at this time.

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