District approves $1.2M to re-name schools currently named after confederate figures

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The Houston Independent School District approved a $1.2M budget Thursday night to change the names of seven schools in Houston that the district says were named after Confederate figures.

  1. Margaret Long Wisdom High School (to replace Robert E. Lee High School)
  2. Yolanda Black Navarro Middle School of Excellence (to replace Stonewall Jackson Middle School)
  3. Heights High School (to replace John Reagan High School)
  4. Audrey H. Lawson Middle School (to replace Richard Dowling Middle School)
  5. Bob Lanier Middle School (currently Sidney Lanier Middle School)
  6. Northside High School (currently Jeff Davis High School)
  7. Meyerland Performing and Visual Arts Middle School (to replace Sidney Johnston Middle School)

Approval for the name changes was voted earlier this year. Community members at Thursday's meeting hoped to convince board members not to approve the funding, expressing disappointment over lack of communication with the community. Many said they felt the this change was pushed on tax payers without the opportunity for proper feedback. Others felt the funds could be better spent other ways.

Several trustees echoed the community's disappointment in the name change process.

"Discussions like this should emanate from community," said board member Greg Meyers in his formal statement Thursday night. "I hope as we move forward that we have very rich dialog about what we need to do."

A lawsuit has been filed against the district claiming Trustees violated district regulations by not presenting the full funding requirements for the change when the vote was originally held in February.

"They had to figure out all of the cost for taking a vote and then it had to be listed out," explained HISD parent Adrienne Murry, who gave a statement at the Thursday board meeting against the budget approval. "In the original resolution, it said there were no costs."

In his comments Thursday night, board member Harvin Moore opposed the funding, saying "we do have better things to be spending our money on, and I wish we were not doing this."

Some of the name changes are happening to schools under construction and thus already receiving new signage. Others may require costly renovations. Moore said he hopes the district will save money where they can.

"When you've got expensive stone work as part of a historic building, and it says Sydney Lanier on it, and it's way up out of the way...I've heard that alone is like a quarter million dollars. That is something, probably, I wouldn't do," said Moore.

While a majority of the opposition pointed in some way to money, those in support said this choice and their support was about equity.

"Whenever it comes to doing things that relate to minorities, people always talk about money," said board member Jonalda Jones, speaking slowly and deliberately to the crowd. "Whenever it comes to doing stuff for non-minorities, it comes to 'what's in the best interest.'"

Diana Davila said her community, "could not wait to have Yolanda Black Navarro on their campus, and we are waiting for that great celebration."

HISD currently serves 215,000 students. The 2016-2017 recommended budget as of 5/31/16 was $2.3 billion.