By George Waters
Local citizens are being asked to sign a petition to recall Sandy Evans, a duly elected, hard-working, member of the Fairfax County School Board. Those pushing recall contend that this has nothing to do with the new name, Justice High School, but is all about the process. Really?
Does anyone believe that if the School Board had not voted to rename J.E.B. Stuart that these same citizens would be circulating a recall petition objecting to the process? Clearly not. This is classic sour grapes and an orchestrated hissy-fit. If it was not about the name, why did this same allegedly “non-partisan” group work to defeat Karen Keys-Gamarra when she was a candidate for the School Board? Simply because she too felt it unwise to continue to honor a Civil War general who fought to keep an entire race of people enslaved. Interesting that Karen won overwhelmingly, especially so in the precincts closest to Stuart HS and despite the campaign against her. Apparently, folks are more open-minded than Karen’s opponents hoped they would be.
Renaming the school is not exactly a radical idea, especially after Charleston and Charlottesville. Look at the types of people who marched in Charlottesville in defense of the Confederacy. Those who are demanding that we must continue to honor J.E.B. Stuart are in bed with those in Charlottesville who demanded we continue to honor Robert E. Lee, they are just more erudite and sophisticated in their approach. Of course, they would take great umbrage at any suggestion that they had something in common, but the end goal is the same. Both wish to whitewash what slavery was about and the lasting damage it did to our country and to millions of Americans. Many of them still argue that slavery had nothing to do with the Civil War, and yet they suggest others are erasing history? What gall to be such historical revisionists while accusing others of erasing history.
As to the recent school renaming process, those who opposed the name change had every bit as much input into the process as those who wished the name to change. They testified at every hearing; they sat on every study committee; they sent in countless emails; they met directly with School Board members and even showed up uninvited at their homes. But they say they were ignored.
While the name Stuart received the most weighted votes in the community’s September 16 recommendation, it did not receive the most raw votes; and that vote came after the school board had already decided to change the high school’s name. Deleting the initials “J.E.B.” was floated but did not have support from either side at July’s board meeting and ultimately had almost no support among the 12-member board.
The process was also clear that the community vote was not a plebiscite but merely advisory and would lead to the Superintendent recommending multiple names to the school board which he then did by forwarding the five names that got the most votes in the community’s September 16 recommendation. One of those options, clumped together with various derivations of Thurgood Marshall, was in fact the word “Justice” but we are told that word never appeared on the ballot at all — a complete falsehood. The votes for a name other than Stuart (the incumbent) far outweighed votes for Stuart as did the combined votes for Justice, Justice Marshall, civil rights leader Barbara Rose Johns and local WW II hero Col. Louis Mendez, the three names the so-called Changers were championing.
The school board did not ignore the community’s September 16 recommendations, they weighed them heavily, debated them extensively and decided that the idea of Justice HS would be a way of honoring three nominated Americans: a revered Supreme Court Justice who lived in Lake Barcroft, a 16 year-old Virginia student who had the courage to challenge segregated schools in 1951, and a long-time Lake Barcroft resident who served heroically in WW II and in Korea and returned home to work in the field of education and whose children attended Stuart. Justice High School is a great name and will provide teaching moments about what the word means, about fairness, diversity and inclusiveness for years to come.
The inflated costs will come down significantly. Band uniforms don’t cost $3,000 apiece, the football field can be repainted for $3,500, not $104,000, baseball jersey shirts for the 26 (not 45) athletes on the 2017 JV and Varsity rosters for home and away games will cost $2,000 not $20,000 and there is no need to spend $50,000 replacing a trophy case, etc. A major fundraising campaign can begin in December.
Sometimes change is difficult to accept but as George Bernard Shaw once wrote, “Progress is impossible without change, and those who cannot change their minds cannot change anything.”