City leaders debate new names for old Richmond schools

RICHMOND, Virginia (WTVR) — Richmond Public Schools is in the process of renaming city schools “named for individuals or symbols that represent racist ideologist, including individuals who served in the Confederate Army during the Civil War and/or owned slaves,” according to the school district’s website.

After dozens of public hearings, surveys, and name submissions, Richmond Public Schools Superintendent Jason Kamras has recommended new names for four city schools.

Kamras and his administration recommended John B Cary Elementary be renamed Lois Harrison Jones Elementary.

He also suggested:

George Wythe High become Richmond High School of the Arts
Binford Middle become Dogwood Middle
Ginter Park Elementary become Northside Elementary

However, several Richmond School Board members spoke in favor of another finalist from the district’s Renaming Committee for Ginter Park – that of Frances W. McClenney Elementary School.
McClenney was Ginter Park Elementary School’s first Black teacher, first Black principal, and first female principal of the Northside school.

Other board members referenced a 1992 article sent to them just hours before the meeting that named McClenney as part of a “clustering” scandal that steered white students into the same classes at the predominantly black school.

Board Chair Dr. Shonda Harris-Muhammed and member Cheryl Burke both expressed support for McClenney.

“I don’t want this board and any of us to take an article such as that that noted about clustering of students who don’t look like me as a reason not to rename a school after a woman who paved the way for many of us who are black and female in educational leadership,” Harris-Muhammed said.

Burke said she personally knew McClenney.

“Unfortunately, [clustering] is something that took place for years in the Northside at Ginter Park School. Parents chose their teachers,” she said. “So far as being a situation of technically segregating children, that was from my observation and working there at that time that wasn’t the climate intended.”

Member Kenya Gibson introduced a motion for the board to vote to confirm McClenney as the new name for Ginter Park despite Karmas’ recommendation, but the vote failed.

“I cannot support [the motion] because I want to follow the process and be consistent with the renaming process. And we said this is the first read. I want this to be the first read for each of the schools that we have listed for renaming,” Richmond School Board member Dawn Page said.

The board is expected to discuss the renaming process at their next school board meeting on June 20.

This content was republished with permission from CNN.

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