‘A name that represents me’: Youth take the lead to change the name of Lee Hai
The board vote did not come without controversy. At one point, board member Charlotte Joyce proposed amending the recommendations to rename the school with language that specified where the funding would come from.
But school district personnel said it would not work legally. Jones said the funding would be better scrutinized during budget discussions. The amendment ultimately failed. Joyce proposed a single amendment for each school, supported by Cindy Pearson and Lori Hershey herself.
A resolution to rename each of the six Confederate schools passed 5-2, with Hershey and Joyce voting against the names. Joyce also raised concerns about the legality of the community voting process, which was run by the Duval County Supervisor of the Office of Elections.
At one point, Jones became audibly disappointed. He said it was disappointing that no one was concerned about the “1925 cancellation culture”. He asked where were the concerns of board members and constituents when black people couldn’t vote, run for office, couldn’t sit in front of the bus.
“I’m voting to change the name because it’s the right thing to do,” he said.
The decision marks the end of a heated debate in Jacksonville. Following the superintendent’s recommendations last week, name-change supporters such as the NAACP Jacksonville branch and 904WARD held a rally that met with counter-protesters who waved Confederate flags and sang the Confederate song, “I Wish I Was in Dixie.” Headquarters parking lot at Duval Schools.
“This has been a time of intense racial reckoning and this debate has been a part of it,” said activist and artist Hope McMath. “It’s important that those of us who haven’t taken as much pain as others are standing in the fray. I ask that all nine names be changed in these schools. Because they will change — whether with your vote tonight.” Or two years, or five years from now.”
He said: “Wouldn’t it be great if Jacksonville, because of your brilliant leadership, could be on the right side of history.”
Nevertheless, the name change debate remained a farce until the very end, with Duval Schools designating three separate protest areas in the headquarters parking lot: one for pro-name changers, one for anti-name-changers and An anti-mask for those who don’t want to disagree with the district’s alternative mask policy for the next school year.
In a rare, emotional moment from Greene, she references the debate surrounding the 2014 renaming of Nathan Bedford Forrest to his current name, Westside High School. He said that before and after school graduation rates were renamed to about 30 percentage points from 62% to 90%.
“His high school diploma meant something. Someone in this room made a decision that made sure he could walk at that level. The things he did made a difference,” Green said, adding that The same effect will continue regardless of the board’s decision Tuesday.
He added that Lee High School’s graduation rate has also improved, rising from 52% prior to 2014 to 85.6%.
“It’s a very difficult decision that this board was brave enough to take the initiative,” she said. “It’s a very difficult process for which the team working [Duval County Public Schools] He was brave enough to face it. The recommendation, one might say, is brave, but in reality it is not. Whenever I make a decision for the kids, it’s about making a difference for them.”
School board meeting gained national attention with Morning Spotlight on NPR Radio and Southern Poverty Law Center released
Statement ahead of the vote.
“Today, the Duval County School Board may seize the opportunity to advance Jacksonville by removing racist names from its six public schools,” said SPLC Chief of Staff Lecia Brooks. “The Jacksonville community has rallied and, most importantly, voted in favor. To remove these racist names. No matter what today’s decision, the Southern Poverty Law Center will stand in solidarity with the coalition of those stakeholders. who support re-imagining the public spaces that best characterize Jacksonville today.”
According to Green, the estimated cost of renaming secondary schools would be approximately $287,000 per school and about $32,000 for primary schools. The cost of renaming an elementary school is low because those schools lack team sports and extra-curricular activities like those in secondary and high schools.
Based on those estimates, the school board’s vote would cost about $1.2 million to implement.
Not all of the name change costs will come from Duval Schools’ own budget.
The district said the cost of the name change would come from a mix of ordinary funds, private donations, capital funds and internal accounts. So far, the Jacksonville Public Education Fund has raised over $70,000 to rename the school. Donations increased after school board approval, with an anonymous donation of $50,000 and dozens more between Tuesday and Wednesday. School sales-tax funding is not meant to change the name of the school, a concern brought up repeatedly by locals who wanted to see the name.
Additionally, the Jacksonville Public Education Fund donated an additional $10,000 to Duval County Public Schools and local philanthropist Delores Barr Weaver issued a matching challenge. Weaver pledged to contribute $50,000 through a 2-1 match, which would be unlocked when community donations hit $100,000.
“What we do tonight is the goal is to make a difference whether it’s one of our students or one of our thousands of students,” Green said. “We’re going to get ahead of this.”
Follow Emily Bloch on Twitter @emdrums.