JACKSONVILLE, Fla. — Nearly a yr for the reason that shift was first proposed, a school board in Florida met at an auditoriumto resolve if they’d rename 9 Jacksonville schools — six with Confederate ties and three with connections to the marginalization of Indigenous folks.
Late Tuesday, Duval Country School Board members voted to rename six schools and hold three school names. The choice aligned solely with Superintendent Diana Greene’s suggestions and group enter. The names accredited to change will go into impact on Aug. 3 in accordance to a district spokesman.
“As a board and a community, we’ve done really hard things. But we can get this done,” School Board Chairwoman Elizabeth Andersen stated, including that it isn’t forgetting historical past, however transferring ahead. “We know who we want to be as a school district.”
The socially distanced auditorium and an out of doors tented overflow area have been full of group members, many carrying white “Change the Name” T-shirts. About 60 audio system signed up for public remark with a mixture of speaking factors on either side of the sand. The school board assembly lasted 4 hours.
Notable audio system included a mixture of college students, school alumni, group members and politicians. Atlantic Beach Mayor Ellen Glasser spoke on behalf of the school in her jurisdiction, Joseph Finegan Elementary. She stated she supported the voting course of and helps the group’s will to change the school’s identify.
“Keeping the names of Confederate generals in our children’s schools is a slap in the face to every African American that attends these schools,” Wells Todd of Take’Em Down Jax said. “Those that oppose the names being changed are acknowledging their support for the Confederacy and all that it stood for.”
Deyona Burton, a freshly graduated senior class president from Lee High School, stood before the school board in her gown, cords and medallion. She pled that her class be the last graduating class from Lee.
“My class has been through a lot… do not let all this pain be for nothing,” she said. “We preserve history by creating a diverse curriculum and teaching history honestly. It’s been a long day and an even longer process. Make the appropriate changes across the board so we can all go home.”
The school board’s vote marked the last piece of a multi-step process to consider renaming nine Jacksonville schools, which was launched last June after board member and former City Council President Warren Jones filed a bill.
Jones said he was moved by the death of George Floyd and Mayor Lenny Curry’s call to remove local Confederate monuments. He said he felt like it was time for the School Board to be proactive. He thanked locals for their involvement — even those he disagreed with.
Since last year, the Jacksonville community has seen a series of community meetings, a number of rallies and protests and a formal balloting process.
Those results culminated last week with Greene’s recommendations to change six schools named after Confederate soldiers and keep three school names that critics say are tied to colonizers.
The school board voted to rename the following schools:
- Joseph Finegan Elementary to Anchor Academy
- Stonewall Jackson Elementary to Hidden Oaks Elementary School
- Jefferson Davis Middle to Charger Academy
- Kirby-Smith Middle to Springfield Middle School
- J.E.B. Stuart Middle to Westside Middle School
- Robert E. Lee High to Riverside High School
Supporters, like Ben Frazier — who founded the Northside Coalition — said the approved renamings mark a turning point in Jacksonville.
“The School Board’s decision to rename six schools in Jacksonville is a giant step forward in righting a racist ideology. We don’t need schools named in honor of slave-holding Generals,” he stated. “That our children had to go to schools that were named to honor a disgraceful past was an injustice. The School Board’s vote tonight rejects those ideas and is a victory for Jacksonville.”
The board voted to keep the names Jean Ribault Middle and High School. But in a turn of events, some board members went against Greene’s recommendation to keep Andrew Jackson High School’s name. Darryl Willie, with support from Jones and Andersen, pitched an amendment to change the name of the school and go back to the community to find a name that reflects the school’s magnet program offerings. That amendment eventually failed.
Superintendent’s suggestions: Superintendent recommends renaming 6 confederate-tied schools
‘The connection of oppression’:Jacksonville schools named after colonizers still debated
‘A reputation that represents me’: Young people lead the push for Lee High rename
The board’s vote didn’t come without quarrels. At one point, board member Charlotte Joyce motioned to amend school renaming recommendations with language that specified where funding would come from.
But school district personnel said it wouldn’t work legally. Jones said funding would be better scrutinized during budget discussions. The amendment eventually failed. Joyce made the same amendment motion for each school, which was supported by herself, Cindy Pearson and Lori Hershey.
Motions to rename each of the six Confederate schools passed 5-2, with Hershey and Joyce voting against the renames. Joyce also raised concerns about the community voting process’s legitimacy, which was run by the Duval County Supervisor of Elections office.
At one point, Jones became audibly frustrated. He said it was frustrating that no one was concerned about the “1925 cancel tradition.” He asked where the board members and constituents’ concerns were when Black people couldn’t vote, run for office, sit in front of the bus.
“I’m voting to change the names as a result of it is the best factor to do,” he said.
The decision marks the close of a heated debate throughout Jacksonville. Last week following the superintendent’s recommendations, name-change supporters like the NAACP Jacksonville Branch and 904WARD held a rally that was met with counter-protesters who waved Confederate flags and sang the Confederate song, “I Wish I Was in Dixie” in the Duval Schools headquarters parking lot.
“This has been a time of intense racial reckoning and this debate has been a bit of it,” said activist and artist Hope McMath. “It is essential that these of us who haven’t carried the identical ache as others stand within the fray. I ask that each one 9 names change of those schools. Because they’ll change — whether or not it is tonight along with your vote or two years, or 5 years from now.”
She added: “Wouldn’t it’s good if Jacksonville, due to your sensible management, may very well be on the best aspect of historical past.”
Still, the renaming debate remained a spectacle until the very end, with Duval Schools designating three separate protest areas in the headquarters’ parking lot: one for pro-renamers, one for anti-renamers and one for anti-maskers who don’t want to disagree with the district’s optional mask policy for next school year.
In a rare, emotional moment from Greene, she referenced the 2014 debate surrounding the renaming of Nathan Bedford Forrest to its current name, Westside High School. She said the graduation rates from before and after the school was renamed improved by nearly 30 percentage points from 62% to 90%.
“Their excessive school diplomas imply one thing. Someone on this room decided that ensured they might stroll throughout that stage. The issues they do made a distinction,” Greene said, adding that the same impact will continue regardless of the board’s decision Tuesday.
She added that Lee High School’s graduation rate has also improved, from 52% before 2014 to 85.6%.
“This is a really robust choice that this board was courageous sufficient to provoke,” she said. “It’s a really robust course of that the workforce who works for [Duval County Public Schools] was courageous sufficient to encounter. The advice, one may say is courageous, but it surely actually is not. Any time I’m making a choice for youngsters, it is all about making a distinction for them.”
According to Greene, the estimated price for renaming secondary schools can be round $287,000 per school and round $32,000 for elementary schools. The value for elementary school renaming is considerably much less since these schools lack workforce sports activities and the sort of extracurricular actions center and excessive schools have.
Based on these estimations, the school board’s vote would price roughly $1.2 million to implement.
Not all the identify change bills will come from Duval Schools’ personal funds.
The district stated renaming prices would come from a mixture of basic funding, personal donations, capital funding and inner accounts. So far, the Jacksonville Public Education Fund has raised over $70,000 towards school renaming. Donations shot up following the school board’s approvals with an nameless donation of $50,000 and dozens of donations between Tuesday and Wednesday. School sales-tax funding is not supposed for school renaming, a priority locals who needed to see the names keep the identical introduced up repeatedly.
Additionally, the Jacksonville Public Education Fund famous a further $10,000 donation to Duval County Public Schools and native philanthropist Delores Barr Weaver issued an identical problem. Weaver pledged to contribute $50,000 via a 2-1 match that may unlock if the group hits $100,000 in donations.
“Tonight what we do, the goal is that it’s going to make a difference for whether it’s one of our students or thousands of our students,” Greene stated. “We are going to get beyond this.”
Follow Emily Bloch on Twitter @emdrums.