Richmond leaders approved new names for 4 city schools, dropping names with ties to racism

Posted at 1:01 PM, Jun 21, 2023

RICHMOND, Va. — The Richmond School Board approved new names for four of their district schools during their regular meeting Tuesday night — a move intended to get rid of school names that represented individuals or symbols connected to racist ideologist or who served in the Confederate army and/or owned slaves.

The board voted 6 to 3 to rename Ginter Park Elementary to Frances W. McClenney Elementary School after the school's first Black teacher and first Black and first female principal.

Fourth District Board Member Jonathan Young voted no to the motion, stating, "Colleagues, I don't support banning books and I don't support canceling speakers and I don't support renaming schools."

Mariah White, the second district representative, said she voted no to the motion simply because she does not support naming any school after an individual. Eighth District School Board Member Dawn Page also voted no for the same reason, stating she wanted to be clear that her decision had nothing to do with the actual person, but she just did not support using people's names for schools.

The board voted 6 to 3 and renamed John B. Cary Elementary to Lois Harrison Jones Elementary School after the first woman to serve as the city's school superintendent. Young, White and Page voted no.

In a 5-2-1 vote, the board decided to rename Binford Middle School to Dogwood Middle School after Virginia's state tree and flower. Young and White once again voted no, while Third District Board Member Kenya Gibson abstained.

"I wholly respect the work, but I do think that this is a missed opportunity," explained Gibson. "There are just so many other individuals that make Richmond, Richmond. Dogwood is a lovely tree, but I do feel like this is bittersweet and so I'll be abstaining."

Lastly, George Wythe High School will be now called Richmond High School for the Arts. Young and White voted no, while Gibson abstained.

Dozens of public hearings, surveys and name submissions throughout the last year have led to final name recommendations from Richmond Public Schools Superintendent Jason Kamras that the school board approved.

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