W-L Crew Team Wins State Championship — “The Washington-Lee High School girls varsity eight won its first state championship in 30 years at the recent regatta at Sandy Run Regional Park in Occoquan.” [InsideNova]
‘Click It or Ticket’ Returning — “As the Memorial Day holiday approaches, Arlington County Police are reminding all drivers of the importance of seat belt use. This annual campaign is part of the U.S. Department of Transportation’s National Highway Traffic Safety Administration’s (NHTSA) national Click It or Ticket high-visibility enforcement effort that runs from May 20 to June 2, 2019.” [Arlington County]
Millionth MAGA Hat Stored in Arlington — “The one-millionth official Make America Great Again hat ever made is currently locked away at President Donald Trump’s campaign headquarters in Arlington, Virginia.” [Breitbart]
Arlington County Board will take a final vote this Saturday on a plan to add capacity for 600 additional students at Washington-Lee High School by building classrooms in its nearby office building.
Arlington Public Schools requested a permit change in order to convert the former administrative offices at the Education Center (1426 N. Quincy Street) on the W-L campus into educational space. The 24,600-square-foot space is slated to be converted into classrooms, a science lab, gym, and a “commons” area, with a fall 2021 completion date, according to a staff report submitted to the Board.
If approved, the updated use permit would allow APS to make others changes:
In addition to the conversion of use, the request also includes minor exterior alterations to the building, including replacing ground floor windows. Site modifications include a new pedestrian connection between the main W-L building and the Ed Center, provisions for new off-site bus and parent pick-up and drop-off, additional bicycle parking, and improvements to a pedestrian crossing at North Quincy Street to enhance pedestrian safety.
The request comes as the student population in Arlington continues to grow. School Board members already approved an APS budget that factors in an additional 1,000 students next year. W-L’s expansion into the Education Center is one of the solutions officials have picked to house the additional enrollment growth.
The staff report described the expansion as “a sustainable alternative to building a new school facility to address capacity needs.” The report indicated 55 teachers and staff would be needed at the Education Center if it’s converted to classrooms.
The building previously served as APS administrative headquarters but has been empty since staff relocated to an office building in the Penrose neighborhood.
The Arlington School Board approved the expansion project two years ago and funded it last year with $37 million in the budget. Washington-Lee is set to be officially renamed Washington-Liberty High School this summer.
The Sun Gazette ran a mysterious ad in this week’s paper, offering W-L students who write an essay about “why my school should be named Washington-Lee” the chance to “win $1,000 cash.”
The ad did not specify who was running the contest, and only said submissions to be sent to [email protected] When contacted, a man identifying himself as Tom Hafer of McLean responded and said he was organizing the contest.
Hafer told ARLnow he’s a W-L graduate from the class of ’66 who has lived in Arlington for most of his life before moving across county lines.
“The money is from my own pocket unless some of my like-minded colleagues decide to help defray,” Hafer said when asked about the contest’s funding. “At this point, I am doing this on my own but I will likely enlist some other readers if there is significant competition among essays.”
Currently he says he’s received no essay submissions, but he doesn’t “expect too many until closer to the [May 12] deadline.”
The School Board voted unanimously to rename the high school “Washington-Liberty” in January. When asked what he thought the essay contest could accomplish after this fact, Hafer said it was a symbolic act.
“This essay will give the students of W-L a voice on this issue that was denied them by the School Board, and will give members of the public an opportunity to hear that voice,” he wrote in an email. “I believe that if the students had been allowed to vote on the name of THEIR OWN SCHOOL that it would be Washington-Lee — forever.”
Earlier this month, Hafer called the renaming a “diversity sideshow” in a Letter to the Editor published by the Sun Gazette.
Last June, Hafer accused the School Board of “hypocrisy, deceit, ignorance and malfeasance” during a public meeting on the renaming, reported the Falls Church News-Press.
Hafer’s ad this week said that the “winning essay may be published in Sun Gazette” but that the contest was “only open to verifiable Washington-Lee students.”
He clarified that he does not have an agreement with the paper to publish any essays.
“When I see whether any of the essays are worthy of publication I will see whether the Sun Gazette wants to print it,” he said. “If not I may simply put it in as an ad.”
Red Flag Warning Today — Updated at 8:45 a.m. — The D.C. region is under a Red Flag Warning this afternoon for strong winds and low humidity, which can lead to wildfires. In Arlington, fire weather like this typically results in small brush and mulch fires that are quickly extinguished. [Weather.gov]
Report on Old Dominion Site Coming Soon — “With a task force prepping its final report on uses for the government parcel at 26th Street North and Old Dominion Drive, what will happen next to the recommendations? For both procedural and financial reasons, don’t expect the county government to jump into development of the 7.6-acre site immediately.” [InsideNova]
Presidential Race May Post Logistical Challenge — “As Arlington’s elections office begins mulling how to handle the 2020 presidential vote, it could be space, rather than money, that proves the biggest challenge.” [InsideNova]
W-L Hockey Player Raising Money for Diabetes Research — “Ethan Rostker, a freshman defenseman for the Washington-Lee hockey team, doesn’t shy away from the tough stuff. He was diagnosed with Type 1 diabetes at just 20 months old. He wears an insulin pump while playing and completes a 100-mile bike trip yearly to raise money for diabetes research.” [WJLA]
Photo courtesy Jessica Hahn
The backers of a lawsuit seeking to preserve the name of Washington-Lee High School are working to keep their legal challenge alive, appealing the matter to a higher court after a judge previously struck down the suit on procedural grounds.
Three current W-L students are hoping to block the Arlington School Board’s decision to strip Robert E. Lee’s name from the building, arguing that the Board didn’t follow its own stated policies for renaming the building and ignored the community’s opposition to the switch. The Board first kicked off a process to consider a name change in August 2017, in the wake of the white supremacist violence in Charlottesville and a nationwide reconsideration of the meaning of Confederate symbols.
Arlington County Circuit Court Chief Judge William Newman ruled in December that the students were barking up the wrong tree, noting that the Board broadly followed the community engagement process it laid out for the name change, and that state law doesn’t even bind school officials to follow that process to the letter, in the first place.
But the students, who are backed by a group of the school’s alumni working feverishly to preserve W-L’s name, were undeterred. Their attorney, Jonathon Moseley, told ARLnow that he’ll be appealing Newman’s ruling, even though the Board already voted last month to rename the school as “Washington-Liberty HS.”
“The judge took into account that [the School Board] didn’t follow all of their own procedures for the renaming, but he said it didn’t matter that they didn’t,” Moseley said. “I don’t like that idea, and I think it’s a pretty important issue that the courts need to address.”
Moseley expects that the appeal will head to Virginia’s Court of Appeals, rather than the state’s Supreme Court, though he’s still waiting on judges to sort out the details. He filed his notice of appeal in circuit court on Jan. 30.
Initially, Moseley had planned to simply amend his original complaint. Even though Newman struck down the students’ initial legal arguments, he gave Moseley until Jan. 9 to file revised arguments instead.
Court documents show that he missed that deadline, asking instead for Newman to issue a written explanation for why he blocked Moseley’s previous efforts and more time to consider next steps.
“I wanted more information about the judge was thinking,” Moseley said. “If there were no set of facts we could allege that showed the Board violated the rules, there’s nothing I could’ve added that would’ve been any different.”
But attorneys for the School Board pointed out in a motion that that request came “on the eve of the School Board’s vote on a new name for Washington-Lee High School” on Jan. 10, arguing it was “nothing more than a delay tactic.”
Similarly, Board attorney John Cafferky argued that Moseley “failed to articulate any legal authority” for a delay, urging Newman to toss out the case.
The judge proved to be sympathetic to those arguments. He ruled against Moseley’s motion in a Jan. 25 hearing, reasoning that the students missed their chance to file any revised claims and that the court no longer has jurisdiction over the matter.
That’s forced Moseley to appeal the dispute to a higher court instead, which could drag out the proceedings for months yet. He plans to have a brief ready supporting his appeal within the next 90 days, then the court will need to decide whether to take the case.
“It could be a year to a year-and-a half project if the appeals court decides it’s even going to look into that at all,” Moseley said. “They can do what they want.”
In the meantime, the school system is moving ahead with putting the building’s new name in place. Officials hope to have everything from signage to sports uniforms changed to reflect the new “Washington-Liberty” name in time for the 2019-2020 school year to start up in September.
A group of Arlington high school seniors are now working to raise $50,000 to support blood cancer patients, in a bid to honor a friend who died from a rare form of leukemia a few years ago.
In all, nine students at the newly renamed Washington-Liberty High School are participating in the “Students of the Year” fundraising campaign run by the Leukemia and Lymphoma Society. The girls are competing with other students across the region to see who can raise the most money to support the nonprofit’s mission, and the program includes leadership and professional development opportunities as well.
The students named their team after Juliana Clarkson, a 14-year-old student at Swanson Middle School who passed away due to complications from mixed-phenotype acute leukemia. Two of her best friends, Julia Elman and Grace Barnes, say they were inspired to start a “Cancer Education and Action Club” at W-L as freshmen in her memory, and they’re now leading the “Students of the Year” effort as well.
“This spring, Julia and Grace will be graduating… a momentous milestone that would have included Juliana,” the students wrote as part of their fundraising efforts. “Team Juliana fights to give child cancer patients the possibility to grow up and follow their dreams, something Juliana will never get to do.”
Elman and Barnes also helped organize fundraisers through the Leukemia and Lymphoma Society’s “Light the Night Walks,” raising “tens of thousands of dollars for LLS while providing an avenue for friends and family to come together and honor Juliana each year,” they wrote.
Elman added that she’s also working to honor her grandmother, who passed away from chronic lymphocytic leukemia years ago. Elman’s mother, Janet, says her daughter is planning to attend Princeton University this fall — she added that Julia was also recently diagnosed with primary lymphedema, a disease affecting the lymphatic system which is treatable, but has no known cure.
The students have until March 2 to raise money for the cause. The Shirlington restaurant Palette 22 is holding a fundraiser to support the group on Monday (Jan. 28), and full details about how to contribute are available online.
Photo courtesy of Julia Elman and Grace Barnes courtesy of Janet Elman
Medical Emergency at Yorktown — A student suffered a serious medical emergency at Yorktown High School this morning. Police and medics rushed to the scene, CPR was performed and the student was reportedly revived. He was taken to a local hospital.
Arlington Tourism Website Wins Award — “The Hospitality Sales & Marketing Association International… on Jan. 22 presented the Arlington Convention and Visitors Service (ACVS) with a 2018 Adrian Award for the StayArlington tourism website.” [Arlington County]
Best Bowls of Soup in Rosslyn — A new list exhaustively details “where to go for a good bowl of soup” in Rosslyn, “because it’s everybody’s favorite cold-weather lunch.” [Rosslyn BID]
Gymnastics Competition at W-L — “The annual Barbara Reinwald Invitational girls high-school gymnastics meet was held Jan. 19 at Washington-Lee High School. The high-school meet, which has been held for decades, included 11 teams and was won by the host Washington-Lee Blue team.” [InsideNova]
Chef Geoff Winning Happy Hour Fight — Chef Geoff Tracy is poised to withdraw his lawsuit against the Commonwealth of Virginia, which seeks to overturn restrictions on advertising happy hour specials and prices, after the state legislature overwhelmingly passed bills that would remove those and other happy hour restrictions. [Tysons Reporter]
(Updated at 10:15 a.m.) Washington-Lee High School will soon be known as “Washington-Liberty High School” instead, now that officials have finally wrapped up the contentious process of stripping Robert E. Lee’s name from the building.
The Arlington School Board voted unanimously on the new moniker for W-L during a lengthy meeting last night (Thursday), about seven months after deciding to rename the school. Washington-Lee has borne the name of the Confederate general ever since it opened back in 1925, but the white supremacist violence in Charlottesville in 2017 convinced school leaders to reevaluate W-L’s name.
“There are those that worry that by changing the name of our high school, we will lose our history,” said School Board member Monique O’Grady. “Rest assured, the history of Robert E. Lee will not be forgotten in Arlington Public Schools. It will continue to be part of our curriculum, and thus a topic for students to explore, debate, learn and, yes, even be tested on. As for General Lee, amid the smoldering scars of the Civil War, he urged us to move forward and refrain from erecting symbols that might cause division. With our vote today, we do just that.”
A committee convened to suggest new names for the school recommended “Washington-Loving” as its first choice for the Board, in reference to Richard and Mildred Loving, the couple who successfully challenged the state’s ban on interracial marriage before the Supreme Court.
But a narrow, 3-2 majority on the Board rejected that name in favor of the “Liberty” option, arguing that the moniker was better suited as to match the school system’s aspirations toward equality. O’Grady and Board member Nancy Van Doren cast the dissenting votes.
“I hope we can name something for Richard and Mildred Loving going forward,” said Board member Barbara Kanninen, who chaired the Board when the renaming effort first launched in earnest last year. “But the concept of liberty is woven throughout our history, and I find that there’s a clear, logical and organic story and narrative that we can build from that name… I don’t think there’s a point in our American history where liberty was not central to the discussions of our time.”
The new names mirrors the Fairfax County’s School Board to rename a high school bearing another Confederate general’s name “Justice,” opting for an abstract concept over drawing a name from history. Loving supporters like Van Doren believe the name could’ve represented “the progress America has made since the Revolution,” but found “Liberty” to be a fine second choice, considering that the renaming committee recommended it as an alternative option.
Some on the renaming committee also proposed substituting in William Lee, George Washington’s enslaved manservant, to leave the name mostly unchanged. That option was even backed by some prominent W-L alumni and former teachers at the school, who made a late push to see it considered instead.
But O’Grady argued that naming the school after a former slave could send the wrong message and run “counter to our [Arlington Public Schools] values.”
“He suffered from a life fraught from opportunity gaps,” O’Grady said. “We will never know the legacy William Lee would’ve left if not for the institutional bias that existed at that time — exactly what we hope doesn’t happen in our school system.”
Of course, support for the name change was far from unanimous. Many of the school’s older alumni fiercely opposed the name change, and have spent the last few months working to block the move — some even backed a legal challenge by three current W-L students, but a judge struck that lawsuit down on procedural grounds in December.
Tempers also flared on the renaming committee itself, with three members ultimately resigning in protest and claiming they were inappropriately barred from debating the possibility of leaving the name the same. And through the entire process, alumni have claimed that the Board misled the community about how they planned to conduct the change.
“You should all be ashamed of yourselves,” said Dean Fleming, vice president of the W-L Alumni Association and a vehement name change opponent. “There’s a much better way to do this.”
But the Board has long vigorously defended its methods, and Kanninen took time to once again stress that members followed “a proper procedure and process.”
School officials hope to have the name change fully in place by the time the 2019-2020 school year kicks off, and W-L staffers say they’ve already been hard at work identifying which signage and uniforms will need to change now that the new name is ready.
But with the final vote finally cast, the school system will now embark on the task of smoothing over hurt feelings and preparing the community for the switch. Board Chair Reid Goldstein assured all in attendance that the switch is “not going to change your diploma, it’s not going to change your education, it’s not going to change you as good citizens or representatives of Arlington Public Schools and the high school you went to,” but many feel the process of reconciliation will be a tricky one.
“You should make use of this opportunity to educate W-L students, parents and alumni,” Thornton Thomas, a freshman at W-L who served on the renaming committee, told the Board. “And if you do that, you might find people are much more accepting of the decision that you make.”
Board members are well aware of the challenges they’ll face on that front, and they’re hoping that even name change opponents can pitch in to start doing a little healing.
“There has been a great deal of emotion on all sides around this renaming,” Van Doren said. “It’s time to come together and remember this is still a great community, a great school with great students and great alumni… Let’s come together now and move forward together.”
Plans to transform the old Arlington Education Center into a new wing of Washington-Lee High School are taking shape, with early designs calling for 24,600 square feet of classrooms in the renovated building.
Arlington school officials hope to someday add space for 600 high school students on the site, the former home of the Arlington Public Schools offices at 1426 N. Quincy Street. But first the School Board needs to sign off on a full renovation of the building, in order to welcome students in time for the 2021-2022 school year.
The Board is set to approve “educational specifications” for the facility at its meeting Thursday (Jan. 10), which sketch out the general requirements for the building’s new design. While the exact details still need to be worked out, these new plans will guide the final design work for the space.
In all, the current draft of the specifications mandates that the building will be home to 16 traditional classrooms, three classrooms designed for science classes, a standalone science lab and two rooms designated for physical education classes.
The Education Center should have the capacity for anywhere from 581 to 594 students under these plans, a key addition in high school classroom space as officials wrestle with the best way to tackle the county’s swelling enrollment numbers. The school system is also set to add room for another 1,050 high schoolers at the Arlington Career Center, as leaders have debated the efficacy of building a fourth comprehensive high school in the county.
Another 3,800 square feet in the Education Center will be set aside for office space, with a 4,000-square-foot common space and 400-square-foot “digital library” also included in the plans.
The rest of the $37 million renovation effort remains a bit up in the air.
A key question officials will need to resolve in the coming weeks is how best to free up parking on the site — according to documents prepared for the county’s Public Facilities Review Committee, planners are currently recommending that the school system reopen an existing lot on the site and allow room for 70 new parking spaces, but they’re also weighing the best strategies to open up bike access to the campus and move attendees out of their cars.
Arlington Public Schools leaders are also still trying to sort out how to connect the Education Center to the rest of W-L’s existing facilities.
The school system’s initial plans called for a new entrance to the Education Center that would help connect with a new set of stairs and ramp, which would make it easier for students to reach an access road known as “Generals’ Way.”
But planners have also begun considering the prospect of building a bridge to connect the Education Center to the northern half of W-L’s main building, documents show. However, officials have yet to settle on exact specifications for the bridge, or decide on where it would meet W-L.
So long as the School Board gives the green light to these “educational specifications” Thursday, officials plan to spend the next month finalizing the project’s budget and final designs. The Board is then set to sign off on those plans in February, and construction would start by 2020.
Arlington’s School Board is set to pick a new name for Washington-Lee High School next week, putting an end to the simmering debate over how to best strip Robert E. Lee’s name from the building.
The Board voted in June to remove the Confederate general’s name from the school’s moniker, kicking off months of squabbling over potential new names and even a failed lawsuit seeking to block the change. A renaming committee has recommended “Washington-Loving” to honor the Virginia couple who successfully challenged the state’s ban on interracial marriage, while “Washington-Liberty” earned the support of some committee members as a secondary recommendation.
Others still supported swapping in one Lee for another, particularly William Lee, George Washington’s enslaved manservant. The following letter to the editor comes from a coalition of W-L alumni, former faculty members and even one of the original four black students to integrate the school in support of that option.
The letter writers argue that the Board should delay its vote on Thursday (Jan. 10), and pursue a more “unifying solution” than its current options.
We are alumni and community stakeholders who care deeply about Arlington and the legacy of its oldest high school, Washington-Lee High School. We also support one of the renaming committee’s five finalist names, Washington-Lee High School, in honor of the African American Revolutionary War patriot William Lee.
A school that figures so prominently in Arlington’s history deserves a name that will inspire an understanding of our nation’s complex past and how it can move us forward. The clumsy attempts to retain the school’s nickname with the current Washington-Loving and Washington-Liberty proposals, however well-intentioned, do not meet that high standard. The name William Lee best “aligns with or reflects the APS mission, vision, and core values and beliefs” as stated in Policy F-6.1 Naming of Facilities.
William Lee, who served alongside Washington throughout the Revolutionary War, has long represented the contributions of the country’s “neglected patriots,” enslaved African Americans who fought in the Revolutionary War for their country and their own personal freedom. These patriots and heroes will soon be honored by the National Liberty Memorial on the National Mall in Washington, D.C. Congress has approved a location for the memorial which, poetically, could be the last site on the Mall across from the Washington Monument. Their contributions, previously shunned, are among the most important in our nation’s history. Moreover, because of the intimate connection between the two men, Lee’s influence on Washington, his abhorrence of slavery, and our country’s founding are of profound importance. A newly renamed W-L could be a powerful impetus that redefines history and imbues our diverse community with a common purpose and pride.
Unfortunately William Lee had not been properly considered by the committee due to historical inaccuracies in its brief biography of his life and an incomplete assessment of his legacy. Regarding Mildred Loving, there are serious questions over how she viewed her own black heritage. While it is laudable a member of the Arlington Historical Society was appointed to the committee, historians and other experts should have been consulted as history is often more complex than it appears on the surface. Moreover, the significant number of resignations from within the committee further cloud the process. As the legacy of a school and county hangs in the balance, it is critically apparent that the five finalist namesakes need to be more thoroughly researched.
With a postponement of the Jan. 10 vote on a new name, the School Board could rectify these fundamental shortcomings. Moreover an extension would help build a bridge to alumni who have felt sidelined throughout the entire renaming process, which has lacked the transparency and public discourse typical of the Arlington Way. Hopefully, William Lee would then be fairly vetted by all stakeholders and the School Board. Alternatively, since Lee is one of the five finalist names chosen by the committee, the Board could opt to choose among all of those names on Jan. 10. Notably, many alumni who had been divided over the name change are now embracing the William Lee name as the school’s best opportunity to educate and inspire future generations of students.
The process is an understandably difficult one, made more painful by missteps that could have been avoided. We feel without reservation that the name Washington-Lee High School in honor of William Lee would be the most unifying solution, and one that will likely ensure continued alumni support that has been invaluable over the past 90-plus years. Most importantly, the school would have a dignified name and inspiring new namesake with an unmistakable connection to one of our country’s earliest African American heroes who helps us to better understand Washington and his extraordinary nature.
Duy Tran, Ann Felker, Bill Sharbaugh, John Peck, Carmela Hamm, Kim Phillip, Maurice Barboza, Anne Ledyard, Anthony Varni, Peggy Jeens, Janeth Valenzuela, Charles Augins, Leonardo Sarli, Sally Mann, Max Golkin, Lauren Hassel, Margaret Jackson Bartolini, Betsy Debevoise Staz, Tom Dickinson, T.W. Dickinson, Betty Settle, Geraldine (Dresser) Frank, Marcia Bourkland Pauly, Fred Grover, Alfred Greenwood, John Dobson, Dana Gandy Croyle, Rebecca Mimms, Chris Fleet, Yolanda McDonald, Nancy Roberts, Gail Zucker Braunstein
We are a group of alumni, alumni faculty, and stakeholders. Many of us have contributed to local civic and cultural affairs over the years and devoted thousands of hours to support the excellent educational opportunities at Washington-Lee and APS. Our names are listed in no particular order. Bill Sharbaugh was the principal of Washington-Lee High School from 1976-1999. Maurice Barboza is CEO of the National Mall Liberty Fund, a non-profit that supports the establishment of a memorial to African American contributions to liberty during the Revolutionary War. Charles Augins is one of the four students who integrated Washington-Lee in September, 1959.
ARLnow.com occasionally publishes thoughtful letters to the editor about issues of local interest. To submit a letter to the editor for consideration, please email it to [email protected]. Letters may be edited for content and brevity.
Photo via Mount Vernon
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.”