JACKSONVILLE, Fla. – Nearly 11 months after Duval County Public School leaders began considering new names for nine of its schools, Superintendent Diana Greene on Tuesday released her recommendations, marking the next to last step in the district’s name change process.
The recommendations were made public Tuesday -- the week after the votes of stakeholders in those schools were counted and one week before the seven-member school board is expected to make the final decision on the school names.
Dr. Greene’s recommendations are as follows:
|Robert E. Lee High||Change name to Riverside High School|
|Andrew Jackson High||Keep the name|
|Jean Ribault High||Keep the name|
|Jean Ribault Middle||Keep the name|
|J.E.B. Stuart Middle||Change name to Westside Middle School|
|Jefferson Davis Middle||Change name to Charger Academy|
|Kirby-Smith Middle||Change name to Springfield Middle School|
|Joseph Finegan Elementary||Change name to Anchor Academy|
|Stonewall Jackson Elementary||Change name to Hidden Oaks Elementary|
Greene’s recommendations matched exactly the results of weeks of community balloting and the input garnered from several public meetings, where the majority supported changing the name of six schools named after Confederate figures but keeping the names of three others named for other historical figures that have become controversial for their treatment of Native Americans.
“I want to thank all of the people who participated in this process, and I want to thank the school leaders and district employees who have managed this over the last several months,” Greene said in a statement. “We’ve had dozens of meetings, hours of public testimony and thousands of votes. All of this input has helped shape my recommendations, which I will discuss publicly with the Board next week.”
Greene’s recommendations are contained in the agenda for next Tuesday’s school board meeting.
It will likely be the end of a process that, in many cases, pitted school alumni and a new generation that wanted the names changed.
Joan Cooper and other people opposed to the renaming of the schools called the pseudo election a flawed process, allowing those as young as 8 and 9 years old to weigh in.
“It will be very disappointing because it’s an elimination of history and that’s disappointing,” Cooper said. “We all need to learn history. We need to learn about the people these schools are named for.”
On Tuesday night, students of the school attended a graduation ceremony for the class of 2021.
“From making national headlines, thus sparking national debates, seniors, we have become the embodiment of progress within the struggle,” Lee High School senior class president Deyona Burton said to the crowd.
Christopher St. Louis, a graduating student who attended several meetings about the name change, said he was excited to hear about the recommendation.
“I had to stay strong and fight for my people and fight for my school,” St. Louis said.
Liltera Lewis, a former English teacher at Robert E. Lee High School said the process, especially public hearings, has been painful for both students and teachers.
“I’ve seen a lot of commentary about how, you know, the name change won’t impact the school grade and, you know, what’s going to taxpayers and all these things that really have nothing to do with the respect aspect of it, with not even understanding how it feels to walk into a building, you know, named after a person who you know, had an intention to oppress you,” Lewis said.
Not everyone agrees with the recommendation to change the school’s name.
“It will be very disappointing because it’s an elimination of history and that’s disappointing,” said Joan Cooper. “We all need to learn history. We need to learn about the people these schools are named for.”
The timing of the decision is not lost on students, parents and alumni who’ve fought over the issue for much of the school year. On Tuesday, Robert E. Lee seniors walked across a stage as perhaps the last graduating class of a school with that name.
While two of the current school board members were instrumental in starting the name-change process last year, there’s no indication yet of how the full board will vote on the superintendent’s recommendations.