SAN ANGELO, TX — San Angelo ISD Trustee Max Parker made an impassioned speech about Robert E. Lee and asked that a motion be made to change the name that brought the entire board to decide to change the school’s name.
Trustee Dr. Taylor Kingman said we named the school not after a man, but as a symbol. The symbol of Robert E. Lee no longer represents the values of our community, he said.
“Some go to a middle school named for a man who saved the slaves. Some go to a school named after an astronaut. And I go to a school named after a man who fought to keep the slaves,” Trustee Amy Mizell-Flint read from a letter from a child in the district.
Trustee Gerard Gallegos seconded the motion. He said the process is “democracy at work” and praised the speakers for their comments, especially a friend who said to him, “It’s not where you’ve been, it’s where you’re going.”
Trustee Bill Dendle said he supported the renaming of the school.
Board President Lanny Layman closed the discussion. He said he was concerned that Robert E. Lee the symbol, not the historical figure, had become a symbol of “one of the darkest eras of our nation’s history.” Layman said he was an alumnus of Lee Junior High.
Trustee Art Hernandez was against changing the name. He said he understood Trustee Parker’s point of view. He went further, explaining that, “Hispanics are in the same boat (as blacks).”
“They’re (Hispanics) still being harassed, still being mistreated. They got rid of my school (Edison Junior High), and no one could tell what happened to all of our trophies. … They said my school was a bully school. That there was too much fighting,” Hernandez said.
Hernandez didn’t want to change the school name because of his experience of no longer having his alma mater around, Edison Junior High. He didn’t want alumni of Lee to have the same experience.
Parker stressed that as far as he was concerned, this is not the first domino. The renaming of school properties named after Confederates stops with Lee Middle School. He said Lee’s name, as opposed to John H. Reagan’s name, has become a symbol of white supremacy and division. Parker said he will not entertain renaming any other facility because it was named after a former Confederate.
The seven-member board discussed the name change for over one hour and 10 minutes before President Layman called for a vote on Parker’s motion to rename the school.
The board voted 6-1 to change the name of Robert E. Lee Middle School. Trustee Hernandez voted against.