HOUSTON (FOX 26) - The Houston ISD Board of Education on Thursday approved new names for seven schools that were recommended by committees of students, parents, teachers, alumni, civic leaders and principals.
Earlier this year, the Board of Education voted to start the process of choosing new names for schools that will better reflect the district's values and diversity. The new names will be in effect beginning with the upcoming 2016-2017 school year. The new campus names are as follows:
Margaret Long Wisdom High School (formerly Lee High School)
Margaret Long Wisdom was a lifelong Houston resident and a life-changing educator. She taught history, government, and journalism for 38 years in HISD at Lanier Middle School, Milby High School, Lamar High School, and Lee High School. She received many honors, including Teacher of the Year and the National right to Work Committee Award; she was appointed to the Texas Close Up Board by Gov. Bill Clements; and she was recognized by Houston Magazine as one of Houston's most interesting people in 1984. She ran for the Texas House of Representatives in 1964, and she helped organize the Congress of Houston Teachers, serving as president of that organization.
Meyerland Performing and Visual Arts Middle School (formerly Johnston Middle School)
Meyerland, the neighborhood in which the campus is located, was developed in 1955 by the Meyer family. Today, there are 2,315 homes in the Meyerland neighborhood. The school is home to a performing and visual arts magnet program.
Yolanda Black Navarro Middle School of Excellence (formerly Jackson Middle School)
Yolanda Black Navarro became a community and city icon through her civic and political leadership. As a committed civic leader she served Houston well by serving on the METRO Board and the Houston Parks Board, and running for Houston City Council. Before her death, she chaired Mayor Annise Parker's Hispanic Advisory Committee. She fought for all Houstonians to be treated equally and helped disadvantaged youth by founding Shoes for Kids. She was founder of the Association for the Advancement of Mexican-Americans (AAMA). Ms. Navarro was the recipient of the Mayor's Lifetime Achievement Award, and the East End Chamber of Commerce Small Business Award.
Heights High School (formerly Reagan High School)
The Houston Heights neighborhood in which the campus is located was established in 1896 by Oscar Martin Carter. Mr. Carter set out to create a planned community where successful entrepreneurs and working people alike could live and work in health and safety as neighbors. In 2013, the Heights was fourth on CNN Money's list of Top 10 Big City Neighborhoods.
Audrey H. Lawson Middle School (formerly Dowling Middle School)
Audrey H. Lawson was a community activist and founding first lady of Wheeler Avenue Baptist Church. Ms. Lawson was a social worker by profession, who started two charter schools and turned the Ensemble Theater into one of the most successful African American-owned theater companies in the country. Throughout her lifetime, she supported children and families and was the creator of countless community education and outreach programs that touched the lives of thousands of young Houstonians.
Bob Lanier Middle School (formerly Sidney Lanier Middle School)
Bob Lanier served as mayor of Houston from 1992 to 1998. His popularity cut across racial, ethnic and political party divides. Bob Lanier won many awards recognizing his achievements, including the Hubert Humphrey Civil Rights Award and the Urban Beautification Award.
Northside High School (formerly Davis High School)
The Northside neighborhood in which the campus is located is one of the oldest neighborhoods in Houston and is an area known for its rich cultural history. Development of the neighborhood began in the 1880s when Augustus Chapman Allen, one of the original setters of the Houston area, began building on the first plat in the neighborhood. The neighborhood was near the Hardy Railway, which was also developed during that period. In the late 1800s, the area was settled primarily by immigrant rail workers from Europe. Staring in the 1940s, a large Mexican and Mexican-American immigrant population settled in the area and many families who settled in the Northside neighborhood during that time have a continued presence in the area. In 2011, the Northside neighborhood was added to the National Register of Historic Places.
Earlier this year, the Board of Education approved renaming the former Grady Middle School as Tanglewood Middle School.
Residents from Hiram Clarke are piling into the Houston Independent School District board meeting in hopes of having their voices heard. The group is trying to get Dowling Middle School renamed to honor a former principal. Most agree Dowling Middle, named after Confederate Army Commander Dick Dowling, should be renamed. The disagreement is over what to rename the middle school. A group from the Dowling community wants the new name to be Carrie Rochon McAfee a long time principal. However, HISD school board members have said in today's school board meeting they plan to vote to rename the school after civic leader Audrey Lawson.
This group says Dowling should be renamed Carrie McAfee because she was principal at Madison High School, the school most Dowling students first attend, for 15 years. “She became the first African American female principal of a comprehensive high school in the state of Texas and also she worked for HISD 52 years,” explains Linda Scurlock who has lived in the Dowling community for 39 years.
“I shall never forget how kind she was,” explains Lillie Love Lacy who was an HISD educator for 36 years and she worked with McAfee. “The kids respected her. She was well loved. They called her “Marlin Mama” after the school mascot which is Marlin,” explains Lacy.
Mae Young also worked with McAfee and remembers being a young substitute teacher in awe of her mature colleague. “What a lady of finesse. What an image in her clothing. Just look at Ms. McAfee I want to be like you when I grow up. (So she was not only a role model to the students but also to the staff?) Oh yes, yes,” smiles young.
HISD school board members are considering community leader and founding first lady of Wheeler Avenue Baptist Church in Third Ward Audrey Lawson as the person to name Dowling after.
“We love Mrs. Lawson but Carrie McAfee we love her because she had the impact in this community. She impacted our children. (You're hoping to see a school named after Mrs. Lawson in Third Ward?) Yes in Third Ward,” explains Lacy and Young.
“We have nothing against the Lawson’s. They've done a great job for the community but Ms. McAfee served our community, the Hiram Clarke community,” adds former Dowling Middle School student Dexter McDougald.
“We have collected 1100 signatures,” explains Scurlock who says this group has been trying to get Dowling renamed to McAfee for two years. “In the meantime all this tragedy happened in South Carolina but we were here first asking that the name be taken off this school. They took our idea and ran with it,” says Scurlock.
McAfee died a few years ago at age 75. Mrs. Lawson passed last year at 83 years old. The residents who live near Dowling say if the middle school isn't renamed after McAfee they plan to file a lawsuit.