Five Texas public school campuses with names linked to Confederate figures will get new monikers by summer under an aggressive plan proposed by the district superintendent.
Austin Independent School District Superintendent Paul Cruz told trustees they will change these Confederate campus names even if the taxpaying community disagrees, according to the Austin American-Statesman.
Trustee Amber Elenz told Cruz the plan felt “very top-down” and suggested that if they are changing the names, he should be honest with the taxpayers. “Don’t let people think they have the ability to disagree.”
Elenz continued: “So, bottom line is we’re changing the names of these schools and we’re engaging the community on how to come up with a new name?”
Cruz responded: “Correct.”
Removing a school name or creating a new one requires the Austin ISD school board’s approval. The five schools facing the Confederate nomenclature chopping block are:
- The Allan Facility, formerly Allan Elementary, named for John T. Allan, a Scottish immigrant who served as an officer in the Confederate Army. He was also dubbed the “Father of Industrial Education in Texas.”
- Fulmore Middle School honored Zachary Taylor Fulmore, a private in the Confederate Army who later became a lawyer.
- Eastside Memorial High at the Johnston campus was named for Confederate General Albert Sidney Johnston who was killed at Shiloh.
- Reagan High School, whose namesake John H. Reagan, a Texas Democratic Party leader, served as postmaster general for the Confederacy.
- Lanier High School, named for Sidney Lanier, a Georgia native; he was not an officer or hero. He joined the Macon Volunteers at the outbreak of the Civil War. Later on, the world better knew him as a poet and musician who chronicled the “gruesome hardships of war.” The Poetry Foundation called Lanier a major contributor to 19th Century American poetry.
Cruz presented a tight timeline to enact the proposed plan, which another trustee, Ann Teich, called “aggressive.” It calls for meeting with community stakeholders, alumni and student groups through the remainder of November and into December to “gather feedback” on the campus re-brandings. It slates forming naming committees into January, solicits the public submission of names for the five schools in February, and has the trustees voting to select new names in March. The plan finalizes the new school names by August so that the 2018-19 school year opens seamlessly with five renamed schools.
Teich questioned the effectiveness of public input, given the upcoming holiday season. She suggested the board be more flexible “because we’re going to have communities who are going to want to have a lot of input.”
Other trustees like Ted Gordon support renaming the schools, according to the Austin newspaper. Board President Kendall Pace tweeted: “Schools named = monuments. Time is now.”
Austin ISD estimated the total costs of renaming the five campuses at roughly $322,000. They anticipate $13,800 will cover expenditures for one elementary school, allocating $77,000 for each of the four secondary schools. Cafeteria tables and wall banners for a leadership academy came in at a pricey $42,956. They quoted $28,000 to re-floor and refinish a school gym with a new logo. Repainting various areas of four secondary schools totaled $24,000. However, the line item for high school band and team sports uniforms stated “unknown.”
Last year, Houston ISD trustees approved spending $1.25 million from their taxpayers to replace the Confederate-tied names of eight schools with politically correct monikers that erased all traces to the Civil War South. This came in response to the tragic 2015 Charleston, South Carolina, Bible study shootings that claimed nine lives.
On November 23, 2015, Austin ISD trustees voted to change a local policy to include criteria that the “name of the facility or part of facility must respect racial and cultural difference and values” and required a process to be developed for naming or renaming a facility that included community engagement and a timeline. This paved the way for the district to re-brand campuses named after historical figures associated with the Confederacy.
Breitbart Texas reported that, in 2016, Austin ISD voted to rename their Robert E. Lee Elementary School for Russell Lee, a Depression era social-documentarian who founded the UT-Austin photography program and is famous for U.S. Farm Security Administration images he captured.
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