OKC board renames schools to be politically correct
No longer will three elementary schools be named after Confederate generals, the Oklahoma City School Board decided by unanimous vote Monday night.
Instead, the names of Stonewall Jackson, Robert E. Lee and Stand Watie will be replaced by those of a trailblazing Native American woman, a female philanthropist and the Spanish word for hope.
Jackson Enterprise Elementary will soon bear the name of Mary Golda Ross, while Lee Elementary will be renamed after Adelaide Lee, and Stand Watie will become Esperanza.
Ross, a Tahlequah native, was the first Native American female engineer. She was known for her work at Lockheed Martin on “preliminary design concepts for interplanetary space travel, and manned and unmanned earth-orbiting flights,” among other accomplishments.
Adelaide Lee was an Oklahoma philanthropist who empowered women and children through access to education and day care services, according to information provided by the school district.
“I think that the naming process was a great way to involve the community,” board member Carrie Coppernoll Jacobs said. “It’s their schools, and they should be the ones that have ownership of what that names should be.”
While there was no public opposition to the name changes during the meeting, board member Charles Henry complained about the selection process.
Henry, who is black, questioned why the names of prominent blacks Clara Luper and Ralph Ellison didn’t receive more consideration, given both scored high in a public survey.
“At the end of the day, I don’t have a problem if it’s a Hispanic, a white person or an Asian person,” he said. “But I wanted to make sure that the process was fair. Those people that voted for Clara Luper, those people should have fair consideration. Her name was at the top of all those lists.”
Committees made up of community members, school staff and parents recommended two names each for Lee, Jackson Enterprise and Stand Watie elementary schools.
Students researched and voted on the new names. The schools will be renamed prior to Aug. 1, officials said.
In October, the school board voted unanimously to rename the three schools after then-Superintendent Aurora Lora said the generals did not “reflect our values in 2017.”
Violent protests in Charolottesville, Virginia, where protesters clashed over the removal of a Confederate statue and white nationalists took to the streets, “spurred conversations here,” Lora said at the time.
Following the vote, the district launched an online survey to find suitable replacement names. About 1,100 people weighed in.
The names of Lee, Jackson and Watie received the most votes with more than 300 each, but several people who made significant contributions at the state and local level also were popular with voters.
Wayne Dempsey (182 votes) was a minister, youth mentor and former Oklahoma City School Board member. Luper, a civil rights activist and educator in Oklahoma City, received 107 votes.
Wilma Mankiller (29) was the first woman to be principal chief of the Oklahoma-based Cherokee Nation. Ellison, who got 23 votes, was a poet and novelist who played football at Douglass High School.
District officials have estimated that it will cost $40,400 to remove the names from all three schools, including engravings in stone entrances at Jackson, 2601 S Villa, and Stand Watie, 3517 S Linn. Lee is located at 424 SW 29.
Ellison (Jackson), Dempsey (Lee) and Slyvia Mendez (Stand Watie) were also considered by students, district officials said.
A local attorney with ties to Oklahoma City Public Schools has agreed to pay to remove all signs and symbols associated with the Confederate generals after whom the schools were named.
In other action, the board:
–Voted unanimously to close schools on Election Day, Tuesday, Nov. 6, 2018, to give teachers and school staff the opportunity to engage in continued advocacy. The last day of school will be moved from May 23 to May 24.
–Unanimously approved an agreement with Oklahoma City firm ADG to provide a physical assessment of 79 schools and a demographic study. The cost to the district is $1,346,500 and will be reimbursed with tax increment financing funds, officials said.
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