Several public meetings in March will solicit information from Roanoke City residents on the possible renaming of Stonewall Jackson Middle School in southeast – as the trend to rebrand schools that honored Confederate war heroes goes on in other parts of the Commonwealth. Some see those names as a reminder of slavery and segregation; others believe they honor history. Many of these school names were designated during the era of segregation.
Eli Jamison is a school board member and heads up the building name designation review committee. Public meetings are being held in March at Patrick Henry and William Fleming High Schools – where Stonewall students are destined for – and at the middle school itself. Renaming schools has become more of an issue after the August White Nationalist rally and counter-protest in Charlottesville that left one person dead.
“I think it’s fair to expect that people feel quite passionately about this issue, that seems reasonable to expect that,” said Jamison, who also hopes for a “civil discourse” on the matter. Any input gathered at the March public meetings will be funneled back to the school board, which will make a final decision on whether to change the school’s name – and if so, what to change it to. The two remaining meetings this month are at Patrick Henry High School on March 15 and at Stonewall Jackson Middle on March 26, both start at 6pm.
“We are regarding this as a local issue and are interested in hearing from local voices,” said Jamison, hoping for “respect and … an open perspective.” It is not focused on seeking out new names for the school. That’s up to the school board.
The public will be allowed to speak for two minutes per person at the hearings this month and signs will be allowed with limitations. There’s also an online survey for those who can’t make the meetings; see a link on the Roanoke City public school web page.