Join Club

School Board Mulls New Names for Washington-Lee High School, As Final Vote Draws Near

Though the process of renaming Washington-Lee High School has been marked by controversy and acrimony at every turn, the vast majority of those involved in the effort to find a new name for the building are reassuring school leaders that they’re ready to see some action on the issue.

The School Board is gearing up for a vote on a new name for the school next month, putting an end to a process that kicked off in earnest in September 2017. But between a lawsuit challenging the decision to strip Robert E. Lee’s name from the building, and accusations of misconduct surrounding a committee convened to come up with name suggestions, the Board’s faced its fair share of headaches leading up to that momentous meeting.

At the Board’s meeting last night (Thursday), however, members of the renaming committee sought to convince officials that their work to find a new moniker for Washington-Lee was thorough, thoughtful and fair.

While roughly a dozen people still spoke in opposition to the name change, most participants in the renaming process told the Board that they’d done their due diligence in proposing new name options and are ready to see a final decision.

“I’ve been part of bringing together stakeholders in Congress, the EPA, all sorts of places… and this was one of the best processes I’ve seen put together,” said Nikki Roy, who represented the Lyon Park Citizens Association on the naming committee.

The committee’s final recommendation was that the Board name the school “Washington-Loving High School” to commemorate Richard and Mildred Loving, the Virginia couple who successfully challenged the state’s ban on interracial marriage before the Supreme Court. A close second choice was the more generic “Washington-Liberty High School,” which committee members also presented supporting materials for Thursday.

Board members generally didn’t tip their hands on which option they might end up favoring in the end, instead using the meeting as a chance to better understand how the committee conducted its deliberations.

Committee members were certainly quick to acknowledge that the process got heated at times — three representatives ended up resigning from the committee by the time its work was completed, largely over complaints that they were pushed by Arlington Public Schools officials to ignore community feedback urging them not to change the name.

“Instead of honoring these opinions, we were told to dismiss them,” said Julia Crull, a representative of W-L alumni on the committee who eventually resigned from the group. “It should send a message to you when three people out of 21 members resigned for the same reason; we could no longer represent those we were chosen to represent.”

Yet Allan Gajadhar, a representative of the Cherrydale Citizens Association on the committee, stressed that the group did give weight to those views. However, he reiterated that the committee kept coming back to the fact that the Board had already decided to change the name, and it wasn’t within the group’s purview to overturn that decision.

John Holt, a senior at W-L serving on the committee, added that his surveys of current students found that “very few” cared about keeping Lee’s name on the building. While older alumni have largely led the charge to preserve the Confederate general’s name on the school, Holt said maintaining the school’s acronym was more important to most of his peers.

“Almost everyone wanted to keep W-L, but not many wanted Washington-Lee,” Holt said.

Thornton Thomas, a W-L freshman on the committee, also said that some of his classmates remained a bit confused about the “rationale” of changing the name in the first place. Though the Board’s discussions of the name change, kicked off in the wake of the white supremacist violence in Charlottesville last August, have attracted plenty of publicity, Thomas urged the Board to do a bit more outreach to students themselves about the process.

However, all involved seemed quite satisfied with the committee’s eventual recommendations.

Board member Barbara Kanninen questioned why the committee opted against advancing the recommendation for “Washington-Lincoln,” even though the option did become one of the group’s top five suggestions. In particular, she suggested that there was a “bit of incongruity” in matching Washington with either a pair of more contemporary figures or an abstract concept like “Liberty.”

But committee members argued that the Lovings proved to be an attractive option particularly because they weren’t as “heroic” as someone like George Washington.

“It was that humility, that lack of heroic statue that lends the gravity and weight to what they did and achieved,” Gajadhar said. “These were people just trying to live their own lives and be happy, yet they had a significant impact on us. It wasn’t necessarily symmetrical, but I consider it quite balanced.”

Some Board members expressed some consternation that embracing the “Loving” name might make it a bit difficult for the school to maintain its current mascot: the Generals.

But W-L Principal Gregg Robertson assured the Board that staff and students were already brainstorming ways they might change the school’s mascot, or even colors (currently blue and gray). Because the committee was anxious to see the “W-L” acronym remain, Robertson added that he was optimistic that any name change wouldn’t prove to be too disruptive otherwise, allowing the school to leave many signs and murals untouched.

Nevertheless, the proposed new names certainly won’t make everyone happy. Many W-L alums remain frustrated with how the Board managed the renaming process, and pledged to keep working to block the change ahead of the Board’s Jan. 10 vote on the matter.

“You violated my trust as a parent, and as a voter who helped put you on the board to represent me,” Toni DeLancey told the Board. “Simply stop this illegitimate process. Let’s start over and listen to the community.”

Recent Stories

Good Thursday evening, Arlington. Today we published articles that were read a total of 21133 times… so far. 📈 Top stories The following are the most-read articles for today —…

This past week saw 22 homes sold in Arlington. The least expensive condo, single-family home or townhouse sale over the past seven days was $275,000 while the most expensive was…

Many parents of children at Key Elementary School are outraged at the way a possible threat of gun violence by a student was handled by administrators.

We could tell you how great CarCare To Go is. We could tell you about how they are transforming the way people care for their cars with free valet pick-up…

The Arlington-Aachen High School exchange is returning this summer and currently accepting applicants.

The sister-city partnership started in 1993 by the Arlington Sister Cities Association, which seeks to promote Arlington’s international profile through a variety of exchanges in education, commerce, culture and the arts. The exchange, scheduled June 17th to July 4th, includes a two-week homestay in Aachen plus three days in Berlin. Knowledge of the German language is not required for the trip.

Former participants have this to say:

_”The Aachen exchange was an eye-opening experience where I was fully immersed in the life of a German student. I loved biking through the countryside to Belgium, having gelato and picnics in the town square, and hanging out with my German host student’s friends. My first time out of the country, the Aachen exchange taught me to keep an open mind, because you never know what could be a life changing experience.” – Kelly M._

Read More

Submit your own Announcement here.

Learn about the new assessment of Arlington’s urban tree canopy and the many ecological and social benefits trees provide. Staff from the Green Infrastructure Center (GIC) will share study results and compare canopy cover for different areas of Arlington.The webinar will include assessments of ecosystem services such as stormwater mitigation, air quality, carbon uptake, and urban heat islands. For background on Arlington trees see the “Tree Benefits: Growing Arlington’s Urban Forest” presentation at http://www.gicinc.org/PDFs/Presentation_TreeBenefits_Arlington.pdf.

Please register in advance to assure your place at the webinar, https://attendee.gotowebinar.com/register/29543206508863839.

About the Arlington County Civic Federation: The Arlington County Civic Federation (“ACCF”) is a not-for-profit corporation which provides a forum for civic groups to discuss, debate, inform, advocate and provide oversight on important community issues, on a non-partisan basis. Its members include over ninety civic groups representing a broad cross-section of the community. Communications, resolutions and feedback are regularly provided to the Arlington County Government.

The next meeting is on Tuesday, February 21,2023 at 7 pm. This meeting is open to the public and will be hybrid, in-person and virtually through Zoom. Part of the agenda will be a discussion and vote on a resolution “To Restore Public Confidence in Arlington County’s Governance”. For more information on ACCF and this meeting, go to https://www.civfed.org/.

Read More

Submit your own Announcement here.

Valentine Pop-Up at George Mason University

Valentine gifts for someone special or for yourself are here at George Mason University from noon -4pm on February 14, 2023. Satisfy your sweet tooth with Kingsbury Chocolates, find a handmade bag from Karina Gaull, pick up treats from Village

Standup Comedy Showcase Starring Matt Ruby (Comedy Central)

Dead Horse Comedy Productions brings together top comedians from the DMV and beyond for a live standup comedy show!

Matt Ruby, Headliner

Matt Ruby is a comedian, writer, and filmmaker from New York City. His comedy has been filmed by

×

Subscribe to our mailing list