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Panel appointed to decide school names

Panel appointed to decide school names

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Bench in front of Lee-Davis High School

A bench in front of Lee-Davis High School remained the day after the names were taken off the building, as well as Stonewall Jackson Middle School following a 4-3 vote by the Hanover County School Board last month.

ASHLAND -- The Hanover County School Board approved a list of candidates that will comprise the committee tasked with renaming Lee-Davis High School and Stonewall Jackson Middle School during last week’s regular meeting.

The board approved a fast track timeline that seeks to have new names in place following next month’s regular school board meeting.

After nominations are received from the public, the list will be narrowed to 12 to 15 names to be considered by the public. By Aug. 27, the selection committee will limit the choices to three finalists for each school, and the public will be polled on those selections.

Nomination forms are available on the Hanover County Public Schools website.

The committee, made up of 30 administrators, teachers, community members and students, is expected to return to the Sept. 8 meeting with a recommendation for new names for both schools. That selection will be narrowed down with a series of meetings in August, and the board is scheduled to vote on the new names at its September meeting.

In a related matter, the board voted 6-1 to remove all recently installed signage at both campuses no later than Sept. 7, the day before school starts. George Sutton, Henry District, made the motion, and John Axselle, Beaverdam District, provided the only opposition vote to the action. The vote reaffirms the board’s intention to have the names retired by the start of the new school year.

Local NAACP president Robert Barnette said the vote is a step in the right direction after what he said were mixed signals from school officials.

“The Hanover County NAACP applauds tonight’s 6-1 decision of the school board committing to removing the signs for Lee-Davis High School and Stonewall Jackson Middle School before the start of the 2020 school year,” Barnette said. “The Hanover County NAACP was, frankly, baffled, by the school board’s earlier direction to school staff to re-install the signs for Confederate names it had recently voted to change.”

Barnette said he hopes the latest board position is final, and restated his longstanding objections to the names.

“As the community and school board members remarked, the names are a shameful legacy that are harmful to Black students and families,” he said. “With tonight’s vote, the school board demonstrated its commitment to the July vote to change the names and we hope and expect that the commitment will be unwavering going forward.”

Finance Director Amanda Six provided an update on potential costs associated with the name change, but said that assessment will continue and be updated before the next meeting.

A future presentation will contain an outline of how the system plans to fund the changes, a schedule of facility modifications, a timetable regarding delivery of sports uniforms and other equipment and a better idea of when and where a future auction of surplus property would be held.

When officials made estimates during the board’s 2018 consideration of a name change, the cost of the changes was about $500,000.

“We feel like we have a good anticipated list of what we need and we’re going to continue to fine-tune that before we come back at the next meeting,” Six said. That list includes items like gym floor resurfacing, painting of limited areas, uniforms, marquee and interior/exterior signs and materials and supplies.

“We are working through those items,” Six said. “We walked through the schools and met with the athletic staff and principals and tried to identify what we thought we needed to change,” she said, adding that more details will be provided as the process continues.

Six said mementoes and other property from the two schools is being stored at each campus, and estimates are being sought for removal of decals on gymnasium floors.

Surplus property can be sold by localities at a public sale or online auction, and HCPS employees cannot purchase surplus property. School officials will confer with county officials to devise the most efficient way to sell the surplus property.

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