Alexandria school board votes on new names for high school, elementary school

The school board in Alexandria, Virginia, has voted on new names for T.C. Williams High School and Maury Elementary School.

The board voted unanimously to rename the high school to Alexandria City High School. The elementary school will be named Naomi L. Brooks Elementary School.

After the public voted on changing the names of the schools last November, a list of names was presented to the community for a vote.

Last month, the school board announced the names that received the most votes. For the high school the top names were Alexandria High School, Titan Community High School and Ruth Bader Ginsburg High School.

The top names for the elementary school included Naomi Brooks Elementary School, Rosemont Park Elementary School and Jean Reid Elementary School.

Schools Superintendent Gregory Hutchings had recommended the names Alexandria High School and Naomi Brooks Elementary. Brooks was a former ACPS teacher who died in 2020.

Ahead of the vote, Hutchings said his decision on Alexandria High School was based on support from the community.

While made famous in the movie “Remember the Titans,” which told the story of the school’s first integrated football team in 1971, the high school was named after former Superintendent Thomas Chambliss Williams, who was known for resisting desegregation.

The elementary school is named after Matthew Maury who, while known as the “father of modern oceanography and naval meteorology,” is also remembered for serving in the Confederate Navy.

Student representative Lorraine Johnson said she’s proud of the classes of 2020 and 2021, which she credited for leading the push to have the names of the schools changed.

“This would have not happened without you, and for years to come, your names will be amongst those legendary Titans who will forever be remembered,” Johnson said.

Titan Community High School is the name Johnson said she would like to see but admitted she supported any of the possible new names.

Before the board voted to change the high school’s name, there was discussion about whether the letters T and C should be in the new name by adding “the city of” before Alexandria.

Hal Cardwell, a parent and former school board member, supported the name Alexandria High School but urged the board to add “The City of” to the beginning of it, so the school can be referred to as T.C.

“With this subtle change, the community would have more choices on how to refer to our unitary high school,” Cardwell said.

School board member Ramee Gentry had concerns with keeping those letters.

“It would still be, in some ways, hearkening back to T.C. Williams, and the whole point of this is that we really want to start something new,” Gentry said. Gentry said she would support “Alexandria City High School.”

Peter Balas, the high school’s principal, said he hasn’t heard students raise concerns about maintaining the initials in the new name for the school.

“I would have to say if there was opposition, like you said, my students are not shy; they would have been very vocal about this,” he said. Balas said keeping T.C. should require more student input before a decision is made.

Board members Heather Thornton and Veronica Nolan called for “city” to be incorporated into the name because it clearly separates the school’s name from a nearby Fairfax County neighborhood, which some use to refer as “the Alexandria section” of the county. Both though were conflicted if the letter T should be included as well.

Student representative to the school board Ashley Sanchez-Viafara said students she has spoken to would not support T.C. being incorporated into the new name, and agrees with them.

Jacinta Greene, another board member, said the Titan name is part of a “mighty brand” and said if the letters T and C remain, it would not stand for Thomas Chambliss.

“It would not mean that anymore,” Greene said.

Board member Christopher Suarez said maybe the school community should be allowed to refer to the school as the “Titan Community” and use the letters T.C. in branding.

In the end, the board voted on Alexandria City High School.

Then after adding in the middle initial of “L” following a request from the Brooks family, the board voted to approve the name Naomi L. Brooks Elementary School for the elementary school.

The changes are expected to be implemented at the schools in July.

Mike Murillo

Mike Murillo is a reporter and anchor at WTOP. Before joining WTOP in 2013, he worked in radio in Orlando, New York City and Philadelphia.

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