Virginia school boards voted to restore confederate names to two schools



CNN

School board members in Virginia’s Shenandoah County voted early Friday to restore the names of two schools that honored Confederate leaders — four years after those names were removed.

The 5-1 vote came after hours of public comment during the opening meeting Thursday evening From people who speak on both sides of the issue. Vice President Kyle L. Only Goodshall voted against.

“When you vote, I ask that you remember that Stonewall Jackson and others fighting for the Confederacy in this area were dedicated to protecting the land, buildings, and lives of those under attack,” one woman insisted. Board for Restoration of Confederate Names. “The focus of those seeking to restore names is preservation.”

Gene Gilby, the last son of James Wilson Gilby, a Virginia civil rights activist who helped desegregate schools in Virginia, criticized the move to keep the names.

“Why are we here tonight at one of the most brutal times in history, when hatred and racism continue throughout this district and across America?” Kilby said. “Is this the type of legacy you want to place in Shenandoah County’s public school buildings?”

Since the killing of George Floyd in 2020, the names of federal leaders, Confederate monuments and symbols Removed from many schools, universities, military facilities and even Washington National Cathedral windows.

Nearly four years ago, the Shenandoah County School Board made such a decision and moved to rename Stonewall Jackson High School and Ashby Lee Elementary School. Schools are named after Confederate generals. Thomas “Stonewall” Jackson, Robert E. Lee and Turner Ashby.

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That 2020 move is part of a resolution condemning racism and affirming the district’s “commitment to an inclusive school environment.” School Board Documents.

From July 2021 the schools will be called Mountain View High School and Honey Run Elementary School. Group documents.

But the makeup of the school board is different now than it was at the end of 2020 — all six seats are held by different people.

After a panel of residents Named Alliance for Better Schools Asked the board last month to consider restoring the original school names, members discussed the issue in a work session, solicited public comments and scheduled a vote this week.

A April 22 working session meeting, six committee members criticized how the names were changed in 2020, saying it was done incorrectly, rushed and lacked public input. Board member Gloria E. Carlineau said at the work session that it also “destroyed” confidence in the school board.

Carlinio told CNN his vote was based on how the names changed in 2020. He said the decision was made within days of Covid-19 restrictions limiting community input.

“So, for me, the bottom line is whether we, as a democratic nation based on laws, want to ignore the decision of a government agency that exploited the tragedy of COVID or right a wrong that has deeply divided our society. I choose the latter,” Carlinio told CNN before Thursday’s meeting.

CNN reached out to five other board members ahead of Thursday’s meeting.

Shenandoah County Public Schools spokeswoman Jessica Sagar said the district has not yet received quotes on the estimated cost of the name change. In 2021, the district estimates it will spend more than $304,000 in costs related to changing the names of two schools and one middle school logo. District Papers.

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Those costs relate to other items such as uniforms and equipment for the athletic teams, resurfacing the gymnasium floor, boards on buildings and scoreboards, former Shenandoah County Public Schools Superintendent Mark Johnston told board members. During a meeting last year.

If approved, the motion states that private donations would be used to restore the school names, “not school system or state tax funds, although SCPS would oversee disbursements related to restoration costs.” Thursday meeting agenda.

Parents and residents voiced their opposition and support for restoring the school’s names. A April 3 letter to school boardThe Alliance for Better Schools said it believes “a review of this decision is necessary to honor the heritage of our community and respect the will of the majority.”

Before the vote, the group told CNN, “It has full confidence in the current school board to listen to its members and follow the will of the majority in the county. Unfortunately, the previous school board didn’t take those things into consideration. ‘We the people’ is an important part of our constitution.” We also believe that it should be established at every level of our government.

Sarah Kors, a mother of two students who attend schools in the district, was one of several parents and residents who said before the vote they opposed restoring the Confederate-affiliated names and were frustrated that it was being considered.

“It’s very frustrating to know that here we are four years later, and a small part of the community still refuses to move forward,” Gohrs told CNN.

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He said the focus should be on what students want and need to succeed, whether it’s fixing leaky roofs, a sound system for track meets or having enough varsity letters with current school names.

“We don’t have all of our athletic equipment from the name change in 2020. We still use the old obstacles, which sometimes have the name Stonewall,” Gohrs told CNN.

Shenandoah County Public Schools serves more than 5,600 students and is 75% white, 18% Hispanic and 3% black, according to the data. State Education Department shows.

CNN’s Paradise Afsher and Jillian Sykes contributed to this report.

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