BAYTOWN, Texas – The Goose Creak CISD school board trustees on Thursday voted 4-3 against renaming Robert E. Lee High School in Baytown and 5-0 (with two abstaining) in favor of forming a committee “to investigate the possible renaming of current school facilities.”
The early morning votes took place nearly eight-and-a-half hours after the virtual school board meeting began, and after trustees heard from 51 speakers and reviewed 44 written responses (in addition to several hours of public comment on the topic during last month’s meeting).
Robert E. Lee High School in Baytown, named after the confederate general, was established in 1928. Other Texas schools by the same name have been renamed in recent years, including a High School in Houston.
The board voted in favor of forming a committee to investigate the possible renaming of facilities before voting on renaming the school itself.
“The discourse is so emotional and so angry that the committee could serve as a venue to lower that temperature,” board president Jessica Woods said before the vote to form the committee.
The board said 75 people signed up to speak at first, but 24 edropped out. Of the 51 speakers Wednesday night, 28 spoke against changing the name, 21 spoke in favor, one spoke on another topic and yet another did not make her vote clear.
“It’s time to right a wrong,” said one speaker in favor of changing the name. “Let’s not be on the wrong side of history.”
“Changing the name will not change history. It will not change the future, either,” said one speaker against changing the name. “The only thing the ‘change the name group’ has done is caused division.”
Many who argued against changing the name recommended that the community be allowed to vote on the issue.
“The least you could do is to allow a process to find out how much money it will cost,” said one speaker. “We can change the name, but I don’t see why we can’t do it responsibly.”
It would cost between $150/200,000 and $400,000 to rename Robert E Lee High School, a couple of board members said Wednesday night.
Board president Woods said the committee spoken of on Thursday will likely be made up of constituents from every district, and others, including community “stakeholders.”