HISD Board of Education approves new names for 7 schools

By Lea Wilson - Digital News Editor, Ryan Korsgard - Reporter
HOUSTON - The controversy surrounding the re-naming of several Houston Independent School District schools continues to grow.  
 
Dozens of concerned parents gathered outside the HISD headquarters this afternoon to protest five million dollars in funding. 
 
The protesters said the school board voted to spend that money on athletic uniforms and equipment without public comment.
 
"The actions leading up to the vote were in direct violation of the rules and regulations of the Texas Education Agency as well as the rules of HISD Board that they're suppose — and are sworn — to live by," one parent said. "The Board's decision was therefore illegal and should be reversed."  
 
They also claim the board misled taxpayers about the financial costs of the name changes.

The HISD Board approved the renaming of seven schools May 12 during a meeting. The board voted earlier this year to change the names of the schools, many of which had ties to the Confederacy. 

The board agreed to rename Johnston Middle School to the Meyerland Performing and Visual Arts Middle School during a meeting Thursday night.

The board also approved changing Sidney Lanier Middle School to Bob Lanier Middle School and Lee High School to Margaret Long Wisdom High School. Heights High School is the new name of the former Reagan High School.

Yolanda Black Navarro Middle School of Excellence was renamed Jackson Middle School with the board's approval.

The board also approved the renaming of Dowling Middle School to Audrey H. Lawson Middle School and Davis High School to Northside High School. 

If approved, the new names will go into effect with the upcoming 2016-2017 school year. 

The hot-button issue has sparked debate in the community.

Parents, alumni and community leaders rallied in front of Houston Independent School District headquarters Thursday afternoon just before a meeting began to decide if the district would change the names of seven schools whose namesakes had ties to the confederacy.  

The group wanted to control whether names changed and if so, to what.

Earlier in the day, the community rallied outside Dowling Middle School in southwest Houston. People wore shirts with the name of longtime Madison High Principal, Carrie McAfee. She was the first female principal of a high school in Texas.  

The petitions asks to name the school after McAfee, a long-time principal of Madison High School, as most of the students at Dowling will go to Madison High. 

Community activist, Linda Scurlock, said, "We felt like we should honor her. The students loved her. Called her “Mama Marlin.” The mascot for Madison is marlin.  They loved her.  Everybody in this community loved her.”

Dowling alum, Dexter McDougald said, "We are really appalled by the goings on at HISD at this point in time.  And we just want a wrong to be righted."

Sydney Lanier Middle School parents held a news conference Monday to protest the proposal, even going as far as to threaten legal action if the name changes go through.

Lanier parents claimed that Houston ISD is going against its own regulations by voting to rename the schools. They said the district is failing to inform the public of how much the name changes will cost and where the money will come from.

The prospective names were chosen by a committee of students, parents, teachers, alumni, civic leaders and principals, the school board said. The board said the new names will “better reflect the district's values and diversity.” 

HISD on Friday revealed the proposed name changes of seven schools.

The Board of Education will vote on the names on Thursday. 

The district proposed that Lanier keep the last name of the school, but be named after former Houston mayor Bob Lanier, who served as mayor from 1992 to 1998.

The prospective names were chosen by a committee of students, parents, teachers, alumni, civic leaders and principals, the school board said. The board said the new names will “better reflect the district's values and diversity.”

Earlier this year, the board voted in favor of renaming the former Grady Middle School as Tanglewood Middle School.

Linda Scurlock, a member of the renaming committee, said the Hiram Clarke community is being ignored. She said HISD employees should not have been involved in a community decision.

"We honor Audrey Lawson and her family's contribution to the Third Ward," Scurlock said in the release. "But this is Hiram Clarke and the neighborhood should choose the name, not bureaucrats. Again, HISD is just not listening."

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