RPS Board sets vote on renaming schools
RICHMOND, Va. (WWBT) - Richmond School Board members plan to vote on renaming four city schools later this month.
The school board authorized renaming Binford Middle School, George Wythe High School, Ginter Park Elementary and John B. Cary Elementary earlier this year.
According to RPS, these four schools were named after individuals who served in the Confederate Army during the Civil War and/or owned slaves.
After much input from the community during the public comment period and debate among board members Monday night, a vote was scheduled for the board’s next meeting on Tuesday, June 20.
There was little to no debate on the renaming of George Wythe High School, which is recommended to be renamed “Richmond School of the Arts,” and Binford Middle School recommended to be renamed “Dogwood Middle School.”
The most input came from members of the public urging the board to vote to rename John B. Cary Elementary after Lois-Harrison Jones.
“You will not find anywhere within the shores of this country any person better suited, better qualified, better prepared to receive that honor than she,” Former RPS Board Member Dr. Melvin Law said, speaking in favor of the renaming.
This potential new name was already a frontrunner and a recommendation from RPS.
Jones is a famous Richmond educator who became the first Black female superintendent in Virginia and went on to have national success.
Another Black female educator, the late Frances Wood McClenney, also garnered support to become the namesake of Ginter Park Elementary.
McClenney was a teacher and principal there during the desegregation of schools.
“Frances came to Richmond with a legacy and a history of business and education and freedom fighters who loved humanity,” her daughter Madeline McClenney said. “She came to teach her babies to read and write so they would matriculate with a foundation that would not be stolen.”
While some school board members, such as Kenya Gibson and Cheryl Burke, were inspired by this testimony and wanted to rename these schools after influential black women, others disagreed with the renaming process.
“Although I do know Dr. Lois-Harrison Jones, her credentials, her accolades, and her leadership, I’m not the person who names schools after individuals,” Board Member Mariah White said.
White said that although both women were strong Black leaders, she would like to see street names dedicated in their honor, not schools.
Ultimately, when it came time to vote on the McClenney suggestion, the motion failed, and the meeting moved on to other topics, including graduation rates.
It is estimated 76% of RPS senior students will graduate on time.
However, for seniors at George Wythe High School, that number is 54%. Richmond Alternative School sits at 24%.
This was a cause for concern as the state graduation rate average is 92%.
Copyright 2023 WWBT. All rights reserved.