Process Announced to Consider More Than Just Renaming Robert E. Lee Middle School
SAN ANGELO, TX — The San Angelo ISD announced Monday night their process for considering the renaming of Robert E. Lee Middle School as well as other facilities, such as John H. Reagan Elementary School.
Lee was the commanding general of the Confederate States Army until his surrender at Appomattox on April 9, 1865. The middle school was built and named after Lee in 1949. Reagan, a Texan, was the Postmaster General of the Confederate States. The elementary school was named after Reagan in 1909.
Efforts to address the renaming was brought forward by citizen Jessie Ramon, Jr. who said he has children attending the school when he addressed the San Angelo ISD Board of Trustees in June.
Angelo State University professor Dr. Jason Pierce, associate professor on the American West, Native American History and American environmental history has become the anti-Lee spokesman for what appear to be closely aligned if not organized proponents of removing the Confederate general’s name. Pierce claimed at the July 20 Board of Trustees meeting that the naming of Robert E. Lee Middle School in 1949 could have been due to white blowback caused by early rumblings of the Civil Rights movement following World War II. The professor was joined by the heads of both the Angelo State University NAACP chapter, Destiny Brown, and the San Angelo NAACP chapter, Shirley Spears. Both demanded board action to remove Lee’s name. Spears said San Angelo’s NAACP added their demand to changing the name of Reagan Elementary as well.
The ASU professor and NAACP heads were joined by citizens Lana Primo and Camille Martinez calling for the schools’ names changed.
Of the five presenting to the board Monday evening, only one, Willie Flores, said he did not want to change the name of either Lee or Reagan.
“The name is just a name to me. My kids go to John H. Reagan. They don’t go there because he was a slaveholder… It’s not in a name. If the people want to change the name, I want those who want to change the name have to pay for it. … If we open Pandora’s Box, where does it end?” Willie Flores asked in conclusion.
WATCH: San Angelo's Civil War
Board President Lanny Layman said in comments to the board, the ratio is about five to one in favor of changing the name of Lee. Reagan Elementary School’s name is a new consideration, he said. Layman holds his cards very close to his chest and would not reveal where he currently sits on the controversy.
The San Angelo ISD administration has set forth an organized plan to fully vet the proposal for changing the Lee name, or any other facility name within San Angelo ISD’s jurisdiction. Lee and Reagan are in the crosshairs, but other facilities, such as Lamar and Fannin Elementary Schools may soon attract targeting by the same citizens protesting Lee. Mirabeau B. Lamar, the 2nd President of Texas and firm states rights advocate (especially concerning laws allowing slaves), and James Fannin were close friends and owned slaves. Fannin, who died at Goliad, was a slave trader. Lamar died a year before the Civil War began.
The more historical names are scrutinized in and around San Angelo ISD, doing so may force the administration to rename many facilities.
“The plan focuses on respecting community ideals while embracing inclusivity and equity for students. The process will include Town Hall and survey opportunities open to all interested persons for broad input as well as other events designed for groups particularly impacted by the matter,” a San Angelo ISD press release stated.
A few virtual town halls are planned starting August 4. A special committee called the Advisory Design Team “reviews the data to determine next steps.”
All of these steps will be facilitated by two career educationists, Dr. Luz Martinez and Dr. Dawson Orr.
“Dr. Martinez is a bilingual educator with over 30 years of experience including three principal positions at economically disadvantaged, minority-serving high schools. Dr. Orr’s professional experience in education spans 40 years. He previously served as superintendent in Pampa ISD, Wichita Falls ISD and Highland Park ISD, and is now a college professor,” the district stated in a press release.
Superintendent Carl Dethloff described the facilitators. “Dr. Orr is a great facilitator, person and leader,” he said. Of Dr. Luz, Dethloff said her capabilities as a bilingual facilitator will support the San Angelo ISD’s plan. The superintendent added that her leadership experience as the high school principal of three different and diverse high schools with high populations of under resourced students is necessary and needed.
Layman said the administration will present a plan for action, and for the board to vote on, October 19. That plan will either be for the retention or renaming action(s) as recommended by the administration.
Robert E. Lee’s fate in San Angelo will be decided then and what could happen is Lee’s legacy here may take out several of his contemporaries should the board vote to rename multiple facilities.
Here is the schedule of events on renaming Lee Middle School and other facilities:
- August 4: virtual Focus Groups
- August 6 (11am-1pm and 6pm-8pm): virtual Town Hall meetings open to the public
- September 1: in-person Focus Groups
- August 26-September 14: online survey open to the public
- September 15 (11am-1pm and 6pm-8pm): virtual Town Hall meetings open to the public
- October 8: Advisory Council Design Team reviews the data to determine next steps
- October 19: proposal on retention or renaming action taken to the Board of Trustees for consideration
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