“Washington-Loving” might’ve earned a committee’s blessing as the ideal new name for Washington-Lee High School, but members of the group say the process of reaching that recommendation was anything but smooth sailing.
Two members of the W-L renaming committee even ended up resigning from its ranks, decrying the group’s work to find a new name for the school as a process that was tainted from the time deliberations started this September.
Other members of the committee argue that the group had some passionate disagreements at times, but generally reached a fair consensus on a name for W-L. Regardless of exactly where the truth lies, however, the dispute marks yet another complication in a process that’s been characterized by plenty of fierce debate ever since the School Board’s June vote to strip Robert E. Lee’s name from the building.
“I am departing with disgust about a morally bankrupt process that has been directed, not facilitated,” Patrice Kelly, a W-L parent, wrote in a letter resigning from the committee provided to ARLnow. “Between the chilling of discussions, the manipulative process, the disregarding of solicited public opinion and the pressure to conform to the unstated mandate, I have concluded that this process is a disingenuous attempt to appear that public input was sought.”
The chief concerns of Kelly and Bill Moser, a W-L alumnus who resigned from the committee once it finished its work last week, are that the committee failed to give any consideration of the prospect of keeping the name the same, or finding another historical figure with the name “Lee” as a substitute.
Both were also frustrated that one of their fellow committee members had ties to the school system, albeit indirectly, which they felt showed that the Board was unduly influencing the process. Dana Raphael, the daughter of former Board member Abby Raphael, represented recent W-L alumni on the committee.
“I won’t say that she orchestrated the process… but I do wonder about the whole thing,” Moser told ARLnow.
Raphael, for her part, feels that such assertions are ridiculous. She says she became interested in the battle over the W-L name when the Board was deliberating the issue this summer, particularly because she’s believed that the name should be changed ever since she was a freshman at W-L.
And as for her mother, Raphael says “she’s had no role in the facilities policy or the renaming,” particularly since she left the Board in 2015.
“Her commitment to public service inspired me when I was in high school to take an active role in my community, in politics and in current events,” Raphael wrote in an email. “I applied to join the renaming committee because I wanted to ensure the process considered the history of the school and the legacy of Jim Crow, as well as ensure we centered a conversation about civil rights.”
Raphael also argues that it wasn’t part of the group’s mission to consider the prospect of keeping the name, noting the group had “no authority to ‘overturn’ or ‘nullify’ the School Board’s decision to replace ‘Lee.'” She added that a neutral facilitator brought on by the school system to guide the process made such a point clear “at every single meeting.”
“It was out of our control,” said Chloe Slater, a junior at W-L representing current students on the committee. “The point was to choose a new name, because that’s what the School Board decided. Some people didn’t understand that aspect.”
Even still, Kelly and Moser were frustrated that the committee was directed to ignore comments submitted in public surveys about the process that pushed for the name to stay the same. Kelly even felt that the committee was dissuaded from any consideration of feedback asking the group to pick another “Lee” to honor.
But Linda Erdos, a School Board spokeswoman and a staff liaison to the committee, says the group decided on its own not to move forward with another “Lee” option.
The committee considered people like “Light-Horse Harry” Lee, Robert’s father and a Revolutionary War general, or William Lee, George Washington’s enslaved manservant. Yet Erdos said the group ultimately decided that picking another “Lee” would feel too much like “smoke and mirrors” after the Board’s decision. William Lee, in particular, ended up among the committee’s top choices, but did not advance in the group’s final round of voting.
“We thought, if we’re going to make a change, why not make it be a big one, why not make it be amazing?” Slater said.
Slater, the daughter an interracial couple herself, was quite pleased that the committee settled on a name to honor Richard and Mildred Loving, the couple who managed to successfully challenge Virginia’s ban on interracial marriage in court. It helped, too, that replacing “Lee” with “Loving” meets the desire of many students to keep the “W-L” moniker intact, Slater said.
Raphael said she was willing to consider other names beyond those that would’ve preserved the school’s W-L acronym — abolitionist Harriet Tubman was the lone finalist to be considered whose name didn’t begin with “L” — but she believes “Loving” is a fine choice to honor ‘those who fought for equality and equal citizenship.”
“I would be proud to tell people that I graduated from Washington-Loving High School,” Raphael said.
Moser takes a considerably dimmer view of the committee’s recommendation. He felt the group was too “racially fixated,” primarily submitting African American historical figures for consideration, even though the W-L student body has a large Hispanic population as well.
He also sees the “Loving” name as a “totally inappropriate and ridiculous” and viewed it as “a joke as far as I was concerned,” considering that he doesn’t think much of the Lovings and their fight to end the interracial marriage ban.
“The rationale for them was they wanted to be happy and they were willing to break the law to do so,” Moser said. “These were not people of high stature. They didn’t accomplish anything other than being in an interracial relationship.”
Moser’s skepticism regarding the Lovings aside, Erdos believes the committee’s deliberations were generally quite civil. Given the legal wrangling and political battles that have so far marked the renaming process, she says that was (generally) a pleasant surprise.
“I really was bracing for some difficult meetings,” Erdos said. “But, quite honestly, I was surprised it went as well as it did.”
The Board plans to discuss the name change for the first time on Dec. 20, and vote on Jan. 10.
Washington-Lee High School could soon be renamed to honor Mildred and Richard Loving, the Virginia couple who successfully challenged the state’s ban on interracial marriages before the Supreme Court.
A committee tasked with suggesting a new name for the school voted on Thursday (Nov. 29) to recommend “Washington-Loving” as its new moniker, according to School Board spokeswoman Linda Erdos. She added that the committee’s second choice was “Washington-Liberty High School” in passing along recommendations to the Board.
The 23-member group began its work in September, after the Board voted in June to strip Confederate general Robert E. Lee’s name from the building due to his legacy of fighting to preserve slavery. Board members will now have the final say on a new name for the school, which they’re hoping to have in place in time for the 2019-2020 school year.
The renaming effort has been a controversial one throughout the community, with three W-L students suing the school to block the name change, arguing that the Board didn’t follow its own procedures in kicking off the renaming. The Board vigorously denies those charges, and a hearing in that case is set in Arlington Circuit Court later this month.
Other disgruntled alumni also backed Audrey Clement’s unsuccessful School Board campaign this fall in a bid to register their displeasure with the name change.
Nevertheless, the Board is set to debate the matter for the first time at its Dec. 20 meeting, Erdos said. In an email to the school’s staff that Erdos provided to ARLnow, W-L Principal Gregg Robertson expressed confidence that the “Washington-Loving” option would be the ideal option for the Board to consider.
“I don’t like to speculate, but ‘Loving’ holds a strong first place recommendation,” Robertson wrote. “I am so proud that our school community is moving forward in a positive way, while being insightful and thoughtful. I am also proud that we may be the first school in the United States to honor two individuals who looked past race and color and joined in a marriage based on their love and respect for each another. Though at the time, treated very unfairly by the state they loved — they will now hopefully be honored for possessing many of the same attributes we associate with our school, our goals and our vision for a global society.”
Chloe Slater, a junior at Washington-Lee who sat on the committee, agreed that “Washington-Loving” provides a “clear representation” of the school’s values. As the child of an interracial couple herself, Slater says the Lovings’ court battle represents an inspiring example of “how everyday people can accomplish great things.”
“I just really enjoy how we can turn a name with so many negative connotations into something positive,” Slater told ARLnow.
The Lovings, who have both since died, hailed from Caroline County, just south of Fredericksburg. The couple married in D.C. in 1958, but were subsequently convicted under a Virginia law banning interracial couples from returning to the state. The Lovings challenged that sentence in court, and the Supreme Court ultimately issued a unanimous decision in their favor in 1967, in effect striking down all laws banning interracial marriage across the county. The case was also the subject of the film “Loving” in 2016.
The Board had originally hoped to vote on a new name for W-L before year’s end. However, Erdos said it’s currently planning to do so at its Jan. 10 meeting.
McChrystal Speaks Out Against Lee — Amid the furor over changing the name of Washington-Lee High School, Gen. Stanley McChrystal, who attended W-L, says it’s time to set aside icons like Robert E. Lee and “combat our desire to mythologize our history and our leaders.” [Washington Post]
Fill the Cruiser Tonight — The Arlington County Police Department is holding one of its three planned “Fill the Cruiser” holiday toy drive events today from 2-6 p.m. at the Fashion Centre at Pentagon City mall. “A cruiser will be located in the food court next to the Christmas tree,” ACPD notes. [Arlington County]
E-CARE Stats — This month’s Arlington E-CARE disposal and recycling event collected more than 100,000 pounds of hazardous household materials and used electronics products. [Twitter]
AFAC Helps Less Fortunate Celebrate Thanksgiving — The Arlington Food Assistance Center gave away 2,500 turkeys, along with other Thanksgiving staples, over the past week. Hunger remains an unresolved issue at a time when Amazon’s future arrival will likely exacerbate inequality and housing unaffordability in Arlington. [Washington Post]
Nearby: Big New Development in Falls Church — “The development team of EYA, PN Hoffman and Regency Centers was chosen by the Falls Church City Council Monday night to orchestrate a dense and diverse $500 million development of 10.3 acres of City-owned land where its George Mason High School currently sits,” near the West Falls Church Metro station. [Falls Church News-Press]
Opponents of the decision to change the name of Washington-Lee High School have long claimed the School Board improperly cast aside its established engagement process on the matter — but the school system has now provided its most robust rebuttal of those charges to date.
A trio of students at Washington-Lee are hoping to block the school’s renaming with a lawsuit targeting the School Board and other top Arlington Public Schools officials, arguing primarily that the Board rushed a vote on the issue and failed to follow its proscribed process for accepting public comments on the name change.
The Board and its lawyers have already asked a judge to toss out the suit, claiming that the question of whether Board members followed their proposed engagement schedule is irrelevant in the legal proceedings. But, in a legal memorandum filed in late October, the APS lawyers argue extensively that the Board “properly followed its procedures in voting to rename W-L,” should the students’ legal challenge survive a judge’s scrutiny.
In short, name-change opponents have accused the Board of misleading the community by promising a two-step process, and not delivering; they argue the Board pledged to first revise its policy for naming all county schools, then consider whether to change Washington-Lee’s name specifically. Instead, the Board changed the naming policy, then voted to rename W-L all on the same night back in June.
The students backing the lawsuit, who have asked the court to withhold their names despite some giving on-camera interviews about the case, even claim a recording of their meeting with Board Vice Chair Tannia Talento bolsters those arguments. In that conversation, Talento did admit that “there was never any intentional engagement to the community about specifically changing [the name of] Washington-Lee.”
However, in the Oct. 26 motion, the School Board’s attorneys argue that name-change challengers have misunderstood what Board members promised to do.
The motion points specifically to the Board’s vote in October 2017 to adopt a four-stage process for drafting a new school naming policy. That process involved a staff committee identifying the names of schools that “may need to be considered for renaming” based on a revised policy governing school monikers, which ended up including W-L. Then, the Board agreed to “in tandem” adopt the new naming policy and “begin a renaming process for any schools that may need to be renamed.”
That means the lawyers believe Board followed its planned process during its June meeting, despite the claims to the contrary.
The Board’s attorneys do note that Superintendent Patrick Murphy did proposed a “modified procedure and timeline” for the process in January, which did allow for a separate round of community engagement and Board vote on a potential W-L renaming.
However, the lawyers write that “at no point did the School Board vote to adopt this alternate procedure and/or its accompanying timeline,” making it merely a proposal and not set policy. The attorneys even go on to describe Murphy’s January plan as a “non-binding, contingency plan” that “never supplanted the naming process or its accompanying timeline that had been previously adopted by the School Board in fall 2017.”
“Plaintiffs’ specific allegations that the School Board gave no advance public notice that the revised naming policy would be considered for a vote — and that the amendment was not circulated to the public in advance of its June 7, 2018 meeting — are both factually contradicted by the plaintiffs’ own amendment complaint and exhibits, and are legally irrelevant in any event,” the lawyers wrote.
Certainly, there are a variety of other legal arguments that the Board’s lawyers make to justify their earlier request that the case be dismissed. They believe the students don’t have standing to sue — as all of them are currently seniors, and won’t be attending the school by the time it’s set to be renamed in fall 2019 — and that the lawsuit improperly targets Board members and school leaders in their personal capacities, rather than the Board as a whole.
The attorneys also point out that a Fairfax County Circuit Court judge dismissed a similar legal challenge to the renaming of J.E.B. Stuart High School in Falls Church earlier this year. That school is now known as Justice High School.
The students and their attorney now have until Dec. 7 to file a motion rebutting the Board’s claims. A judge is set to hold a hearing on whether the case can go forward on Dec. 19.
Meanwhile, the Board has pressed ahead with the renaming process, in the hopes of voting on a new name for Washington-Lee next month.
A pair of students at Washington-Lee High School are now facing criminal charges after they allegedly posted baseless threats to carry out a shooting at the school on social media.
Arlington Police say the two students posted a Snapchat video last Wednesday (Oct. 31) which “contained verbal and written threats of a possible shooting at the school.”
Police then worked with school administrators to identify the students, and “detectives determined that the students did not actually have the means to carry out the threat.”
The department declined to release the names of the students, saying only that they’re under the age of 18, and said both were charged with threatening to commit serious bodily harm to persons on school property, a felony.
“The Arlington County Police Department is committed to working with Arlington Public Schools to ensure the safety of our entire school community,” police wrote in a news release. “We encourage parents and guardians to talk to their children about the serious nature of making threats. All reports of threats made at our schools and in our community are thoroughly investigated by law enforcement and where appropriate, charges will be sought against those responsible.”
Opponents of the Arlington School Board’s decision to change the name of Washington-Lee High School have now poured thousands of dollars into Audrey Clement’s independent bid to unseat incumbent Board member Barbara Kanninen, providing the perennial candidate with her largest fundraising haul across any of her eight bids for local office.
Clement managed to raise just over $13,300 over the month of October alone, according to campaign finance documents, far outpacing Kanninen’s $4,200 raised over the same time period. Of that amount, nearly $10,200 came from two outspoken opponents of the Board’s vote in June to strip Confederate general Robert E. Lee’s name from the school.
Most of the rest of her fundraising haul for the month — just over $1,700 — came courtesy of Clement herself. She’s provided the bulk of the cash to support her second bid for the School Board, chipping in about $11,300 of the $28,200 she’s raised since January.
But the late monetary support has provided Clement, a member of the county’s Transportation Commission and a programmer for a Reston-based software company, with the most cash to power any of her long-shot campaigns since she first started running for various county offices in 2011. She’s never garnered more than 33 percent of the vote in any of her various races, often losing to county Democrats — Kanninen has the local party’s backing in the nominally nonpartisan School Board race, just as she did when first won office in 2014.
The contributions appear to be headed Clement’s way because she’s made preserving W-L’s name a prime focus of her campaign. She’s accused the Board of pushing through the name change while ignoring more substantive issues within the school system, targeting Kanninen for criticism specifically. Kanninen served as chair of the Board last year, a post that rotates among the five members, when the Board ultimately voted to change the school system’s policies for school names, then kicked off a renaming process for W-L, specifically.
While the Board has consistently acted unanimously when it comes to the renaming decisions, opponents of the change have zeroed in on Kanninen in recent weeks, calling her the prime architect of the initiative. Ed and John Hummer, a pair of W-L basketball stars in the mid-1960s, even purchased a full-page ad in the Sun-Gazette this week to promote Clement’s candidacy and blast Kanninen as “the person responsible for the whole ill-conceived name change project.”
John Hummer, who attended Princeton and became a first-round draft pick in the National Basketball Association after graduating W-L, provided Clement with nearly $5,200 in cash over the course of the last month. Donald Morey, another name-change opponent and frequent author of critical letters to the editor on the subject, added another $5,000.
Clement seems to have spent that cash just as quickly as she pulled it in — finance reports show that she spent nearly $13,000 last month, with the bulk of that paying for ads in the Washington Post and the Sun-Gazette.
She only reported having about $1,600 in the bank for the campaign’s closing days, compared to Kanninen’s war chest of nearly $19,200.
Flickr pool photo via wolfkann
Lubber Run Project Budget Boosted — “Arlington County Board members on Sept. 22 agreed to add about $1.4 million to the budget for rebuilding Lubber Run Community Center, which will push the construction cost to $41.14 million and the management fees to $4.11 million.” [InsideNova]
Clarendon Circle Construction Begins — “Things will start looking different in Clarendon and not because of too many cosmos at Don Tito’s. The long-awaited Circle intersection improvements project kicks off today.” [Twitter]
Neighborhoods Want in on W-L Name Discussion — “The president of the Buckingham Community Civic Association thinks Arlington school leaders may need some remedial work in geography. Bernie Berne used the Sept. 20 School Board meeting to complain that his community had been shut out of the committee set up to suggest new names for Washington-Lee High School, even though it is closer to the school than another civic association that has been included on the panel.” [InsideNova]
Fire at Columbia Pike Building — On the 5100 block of Columbia Pike: “First arriving units found a fire contained to an appliance. The fire was extinguished. All occupants are safe & accounted for.” [Twitter, Twitter]
Tree Advocates Increase Pressure — “Another month has brought another round in the ongoing dispute between tree activists and the Arlington County Board – and much of the give and take on both sides is beginning to sound familiar to the point of repetitious. Activists in support of expanding the county’s tree canopy were among a number of advocacy groups that descended on the Sept. 22 County Board meeting. Among their chief complaints: The county government hasn’t done anything to prevent the removal of trees during an upcoming expansion project at Upton Hill Regional Park.” [InsideNova, Twitter]
Fox News Highlights Lucky Dog — Arlington’s Lucky Dog Rescue continues to get national attention for its work rescuing dogs from areas flooded by Hurricane Florence. Over the weekend Fox News broadcast from Shirlington to bring attention to the dogs that are now available for adoption. [Yahoo]
Arlington’s School Board has signed off on members of a committee to guide the renaming of Washington-Lee High School, tasking 23 people to suggest new names for the school over the next three months.
The Board quickly agreed to form the new committee at its meeting last night (Thursday), and the group will soon begin meeting to offer up options ahead of a planned December vote on a new name for the school. The Board decided in June to strip Confederate general Robert E. Lee’s name from the building as part of a broad review of the school system’s naming policies, though a trio of Washington-Lee students are challenging that move in court.
The new committee will be led by a professional facilitator and the school system’s assistant superintendent for school and community relations, Linda Erdos — neither will have a voting role on the committee. The remaining members, selected following an open application process, include the following:
- John Holt — Current Student (Grade 12)
- Chloe Slater — Current Student (Grade 11)
- Ana Regina Santos-Caballero — Current Student (Grade 10)
- Thornton Thomas — Current Student (Grade 9)
- Patrice Kelly — Current Parent
- Allison Chen — Current Parent
- Duane Butcher — Current IB Transfer Parent
- Hiromi Isobe — WLHS Staff
- Jackie Stallworth — WLHS Staff
- Dave Peters — WLHS Staff
- William Moser — WL Alumni Representative (Class of 1952 – 1970)
- Julia Crull — WL Alumni Representative (Class of 1971 – 1985)
- Peter Strack — WL Alumni Representative (Class of 1986 – 2005)
- Dana Raphael — WL Alumni Representative (Class of 2006 – 2018)
- James Rosen — Ballston-Virginia Square Civic Association
- Allan Gadjadhar — Cherrydale Civic Association
- Nikki Roy — Lyon Park Civic Association
- George Keating — Waverly Hills Civic Association
- Melissa Perry — Arlington Civic Coalition for Minority Affairs
- George Wysor — Arlington Historical Society
- Gregg Robertson — WLHS Principal
Erdos told the Board during an Aug. 28 work session that applicants looking to serve as student or parent representatives to the committee were selected via “random, double-blind lotteries” conducted by the leaders of the school’s student government association.
She added that the committee will now meet once every two weeks, leading up to the planned December vote on the matter.
However, Board Chair Reid Goldstein questioned Erdos on whether there’s a true “drop-dead date” for the renaming process to wrap up. He’s frequently questioned the timing of the school’s renaming, arguing in the work session that “whether the committee is done in this month or that month, it doesn’t impact anything.”
Erdos did stress, though, that the school system is hoping to have the new name in place in time for the 2019-2020 school year and the school will need to know the new name soon to start purchasing new athletic uniforms.
“They need to have that in place so they can begin planning,” Erdos said.
While Washington-Lee is the only school in the county being renamed, the Board also appointed naming committees for several new schools Thursday: the building on the former Wilson school site in Rosslyn that will one day house the H-B Woodlawn and Stratford programs, the new middle school on the Stratford site and the school system’s new Montessori program.
Photo via Google Maps
Arlington’s School Board is asking a judge to toss the lawsuit challenging the renaming of Washington-Lee High School out of court.
Attorneys for the Board and the school system filed a motion Friday (Aug. 31) pressing for the dismissal of a case brought by three current students at the school, who are looking to stop the Board from following through on its plans to strip Robert E. Lee’s name from the school later this year.
The Board argues that the attorney for the students made a series of legal missteps in crafting the suit, and that the students don’t have standing to sue in the first place. Accordingly, they want to see an Arlington Circuit Court judge dismiss the case with prejudice — Jonathon Moseley, the attorney representing the students, didn’t immediately return a request for comment on the Board’s latest motion.
Chiefly, the students argue that the Board didn’t follow its own stated procedure for renaming the school, when it voted this June to change its policy governing all school names and immediately initiated the process for renaming Washington-Lee. They even introduced a recording of Board member Tannia Talento as evidence earlier this month, claiming that her admission that “there was never any intentional engagement to the community about specifically changing [the name of] Washington-Lee” helps support their claims.
But attorneys for the Board and Arlington Public Schools countered in their motion that the “internal guidelines adopted by the School Board do not establish any legal mandate on the part of the School Board,” making claims about how the renaming process proceeded irrelevant.
Even still, they add that the students failed to prove that the Board even “failed materially” in following its own procedures — name change opponents claim the Board promised an additional round of community engagement before deciding to change the name, which is now set to be ready in time for the 2019-2020 school year. The Board circulated a variety of potential timetables for such a change, including one calling for a lengthier debate on the change, but did ultimately follow the stipulations of a September 2017 memorandum from Superintendent Patrick Murphy on the process.
Additionally, the Board points out that the three students involved in the case are all seniors at Washington-Lee, meaning the name change won’t take effect until after they’ve graduated. The attorneys argue that means they don’t have standing to sue in the first place, as they won’t be impacted by change.
“Any alleged damage after graduate is entirely speculative,” the lawyers wrote. The students have claimed that any name change would hurt their prospects for college admission, as schools might not associate Washington-Lee’s strong academic reputation with its new name, and that “developing students psychologically identify their school as a source of personal identity and security and are harmed by feeling that their school is bad.”
The Board’s lawyers even point out that Virginia law only allows for “parents, custodians or legal guardians” to ask a court to overturn a school board’s decisions as further evidence showing that the students don’t have any legal standing on the matter.
A judge has yet to schedule a hearing on the Board’s motion, but the renaming process is moving ahead, in the meantime.
The Board is set to appoint members of a renaming committee on Thursday (Sept. 6), which will meet several times over the coming months to determine possibilities for new names for Washington-Lee. The Board is aiming to vote on a new name in December.
The students suing to block the renaming of Washington-Lee High School believe they have a powerful new piece of evidence to offer in support of their case.
The three W-L students behind the legal action claim that one School Board member, Vice Chair Tannia Talento, admitted in a recent conversation to a key contention of their lawsuit: that school officials failed to solicit enough community feedback on the name change before the Board’s June 7 vote on the matter.
An attorney for the students submitted a transcript of a recording of that conversation as evidence in Arlington County Circuit Court earlier this month, arguing that it helps prove that the Board didn’t follow its own public engagement process ahead of the W-L decision.
Arlington Public Schools officials have been adamant that the renaming process was conducted properly, even as some W-L alumni have expressed increasing frustration about the removal of Confederate general Robert E. Lee’s name from the building. The transcript also shows that Talento noted in the conversation that the Board circulated several different timelines for how the renaming might proceed, meaning that there may not be an easy answer to the question of whether the Board followed its own guidelines for the process.
But name change opponents are confident that her admissions amount to yet more proof that a judge will someday halt the Board’s plans to have a new name for W-L ready for the 2019-2020 school year.
“They skipped over the community involvement that they’d planned on, and Talento discussed that with them,” Jonathon Moseley, an attorney for the students, told ARLnow. “It adds to the same allegations that were there before, but we think it’s important.”
Through a Board spokeswoman, Talento said that the transcript “reflects my initial overall recollection of the discussion” with the students, which she believes occurred during one of her regularly scheduled “open office hour” sessions. She says the students didn’t inform her in advance that they’d be attending, or that they wanted to discuss the name change.
“It is important to share that the students did not ask or let me know that I was being recorded during the meeting,” Talento said. “I do not have anything to add to the discussion I had with the students.”
Moseley said he was unsure of the exact circumstances of the conversation in question, but he believes it happened immediately before the students decided to file the lawsuit and that they informed Talento that they wanted to discuss the name change in advance of the meeting. The students have asked the court not to reveal their identities, though two gave on-camera interviews to WUSA 9 about the suit.
Moseley believes the key section of the transcript comes when Talento tells the students “there was never any intentional engagement to the community about specifically changing [the name of] Washington-Lee.”
The students and other W-L alumni argue that the Board moved too quickly by voting to change its policy guiding how all schools should be named, then kicking off a process to change W-L’s name specifically that same night.
In legal filings, and the conversation with Talento, the students point to a Jan. 30 document released by APS that calls for a separate community engagement process on W-L, culminating in a final decision on the name by sometime this winter. To the students, Talento’s statement is a clear admission that the Board ignored its stated processes by agreeing to change the name in June.
However, Talento also notes in the conversation that the January document was a “back-up” plan, in case APS couldn’t meet its original timeline for the process.
She pointed out that Superintendent Patrick Murphy penned a Sept. 19, 2017 memo back when the Board first contemplated a name change, stating that the Board could direct APS staff “to begin a renaming process for any school(s) that may need to be renamed to conform with the new School/Facility Naming Policy.” That more closely mirrors the procedure the Board ultimately followed.
According to the transcript, the students told Talento that those dueling timelines confused them, and they were taken aback when the Board voted to concurrently change the name policy and W-L’s name. Talento expressed some sympathy for the students, and suggested that they could still advocate for the Board to “send [the name change] to committee for consideration.”
She also discussed the possibility of that APS could “find another Lee” to take Robert E. Lee’s place in the school’s moniker. One option the group discussed was Henry “Light-Horse Harry” Lee, Robert’s father and a famous officer in the Revolutionary War.
“That would have to be determined by the [naming] committee and the school, but it minimizes costs,” Talento told the students.
As it stands now, the committee Talento alluded to will indeed have the final say on advancing new names for the Board to consider later this year. Unless a judge intervenes on the side of the students, that committee will start meeting sometime this fall.
The School Board is hoping to have a new name ready for the school in time for the opening of the 2019-2020 school year next September, ARLnow has previously reported.
But it will be an uphill battle for school officials, judging by emails we continue to receive from upset alums and other anecdotal reports; Sun Gazette Editor Scott McCaffrey wrote today that he and other staffers at the paper frequently run into W-L alumni, all of whom thus far have expressed opposition to the change.
Last time we did a poll on the subject was five years ago this month, when a name change was still just an idea batted about by letter to the editor writers. At that time, 87.5 percent of respondents said they were against changing the name, agreeing that Robert E. Lee and the Confederacy are “part of our history and… not worth changing the name over.”
Since then, the emergence of an emboldened white nationalist movement and last summer’s deadly rally in Charlottesville have changed the conversation. But is it enough to change opinions on removing Lee’s name from W-L? Let’s find out.
The school system opened up applications last night (Thursday) for anyone looking to serve on the committee charged with finding a new name for the high school. The School Board voted two months ago to effectively strip Confederate general Robert E. Lee’s name from the building, after calls for a change intensified in the wake of last summer’s violent white supremacist rally in Charlottesville.
The Board will ultimately have the final say on a new name, with a vote planned for sometime in December, but the committee will be tasked with developing recommendations on a new moniker. In addition to Principal Gregg Robertson, APS wants the committee to include:
- Three parent/family representatives
- Three teacher/staff representative
- One student for each grade level
- One representative from each of the four civic associations closest to the school
- Four alumni, each representing a different decade for the school’s graduating classes, and who are current residents of Arlington County
- One representative from the Arlington Historical Society who is not an alumni or parent of a current student
- A staff liaison and facilitator (both non-voting)
APS noted in the announcement of the new committee that “all applications will be considered and applicants will be selected to provide a balance of diverse members on the committee.”
But even the most well-constructed renaming committee is unlikely to satisfy opponents of the change. Some school alumni have fiercely opposed the renaming proposal ever since it was first introduced, culminating in a lawsuit filed in Arlington County Circuit Court on July 9 asking a judge to reverse the Board’s decision.
The students argue in the suit that the Board “violated its own procedures” during the June 7 meeting when it voted on the change — the Board first voted to change its naming policies for all schools, then immediately proceeded to a vote on the W-L renaming.
The suit singles out then-Chair Barbara Kanninen as the Board member who “led the process of changing the name” of the school, and for tinkering with the agenda to allow for the immediate vote, a move they argue constitutes a “denial of the procedural opportunity to participate in the promised, and required, community involvement.”
The students also claim that the name change will damage their future prospects for college admission or future employment, as “Washington-Lee has an excellent reputation for academic quality, but… some will not recognize the new name.”
Linda Erdos, an APS spokeswoman, declined to comment on the suit, other than to say that the Board and school system believe the renaming decision was “appropriate.”
“Arlington Public Schools will respond in greater detail in the future and in accordance with the court processes,” Erdos told ARLnow.
The Board is hoping to have a new name ready for the school in time for the opening of the 2019-2020 school year next September.
Arlington has the top public school system in the state and ranks within the top 100 in the entire country, according to a new study.
The education research firm Niche awarded Arlington Public Schools an “A+” in its new ranking of school systems released today (Thursday), and named the county the 86th best public school system in the country.
Niche ranks schools based not only data like test scores, but also takes parent, teacher and student reviews into consideration in calculating its grades. The firm gave APS “A+” marks in all of its categories but one, from “academics” to “health and safety.” The lone category where Arlington merely received an “A” was “diversity.”
The school system also ranked tops in the state for the firm’s “best places to teach” ranking, owing to the county’s 12:1 student to teacher ratio and its average staffer salary of just over $89,000.
Loudoun County schools placed second overall in Niche’s rankings, followed by Albemarle County, just outside Charlottesville in third. Falls Church City and Fairfax County rounded out the top five.
Arlington’s high schools also did well in Niche’s ranking of the top public schools in the D.C. region. Washington-Lee High School came in at 13th overall, Yorktown at 21st and Wakefield at 44th.
Planning work to guide the transformation of the old Arlington Education Center into space for hundreds of high schoolers now seems set to kick off this fall.
The School Board will get its first look tomorrow night (Thursday) at a proposed “building-level planning committee” for the project, a group of parents, school staffers and civic association members who will help chart out designs for the effort over the next few months.
Arlington Public Schools is set to add at least 600 high school seats at the space, located at 1426 N. Quincy Street, as part of a plan sketched out by the Board last fall to ramp up the capacity of nearby Washington-Lee High School in the coming years. The Education Center was once the school system’s headquarters, but APS staff wrapped up a full move to new office space in Penrose earlier this year.
The school system expects to fully renovate the site, with a projected price tag of about $37 million, which is set to be drawn from a combination of school reserves and a future school bond.
The exact design of the building, however, is still up in the air and will largely be determined by the BLPC and the county’s Public Facilities Review Committee.
The Board will have the final say on the make-up of the BLPC, which is set to include 28 members in all. Board member Nancy Van Doren will serve as the Board’s liaison to the committee.
The planning process for the Education Center is set to wrap up in time for a Board vote on a school design this winter, with approval from the County Board expected sometime in spring 2019. If all goes as planned, construction will start in the summer of 2020 and the building will be ready for students in time for the 2021-2022 school year.
The Board is set to review the BLPC’s membership Thursday, then take a final vote on the matter on Aug. 30.
What Arlington Residents Think About Arlington — “Arlington residents of all ages are concerned about housing costs. Many like new urban amenities and denser development but are worried about displacing lower-income neighbors. Others point to the county’s affluence and pockets of racially homogenous communities and wonder what that says about their progressive values.” [Greater Greater Washington]
Salt Storage Facility to Be Torn Down — Arlington County is planning to dismantle the rusted-out road salt storage tank on Old Dominion Drive near 25th Road N. later this year, deeming it unsafe for use during the upcoming winter season. In its place, the county hopes to build a temporary facility that could remain functional for several years. [InsideNova]
New Restaurant Kiosks Planned in Crystal City — “Two new funky restaurant spaces could be coming to Crystal City in 2019… JBG Smith wants to build two unusual standalone restaurant buildings, one that resembles a green house and one that calls to mind a tree house, in green space that sits in front of 2121 Crystal Drive. The green is currently a mix of walking paths, open seating, trees and lawn.” [Washington Business Journal]
How Critics Could Fight W-L Name Change — Those opposed to changing the name of Washington-Lee High School have floated the idea of a community-wide referendum, though state law does not currently allow Arlington to hold an advisory referendum. One more fruitful path may be convincing the Republican-controlled state legislature to block the name change, though any such action would likely not survive Gov. Ralph Northam (D)’s veto pen. [InsideNova]
Employer Moving Out of Rosslyn — Amid a series of economic wins for Rosslyn and Arlington, there are also some losses. Among them, The Carlyle Group is planning to consolidate its Rosslyn office — with some 300 employees — into its larger D.C. office on Pennsylvania Avenue NW, after striking a deal to expand its lease and modernize its space. [Washington Business Journal]
Photo courtesy StardogCZ