Letters

Letters to the Editor: School Board Needs To Do Right Thing & Change Names

Letters to the Editor: December 3 – 9, 2020

School Board Needs To Do Right Thing & Change Names

Editor,

The Falls Church City School Board needs to do the right thing and change the name of our high school and elementary school. As reasons to keep the current names, be it cost, tradition, memories, college reputation, or forgiveness of the slaveholders as men of their times, no excuse alleviates the harm done to just one student affected by systemic racism. News-Press’ Matt Delaney illustrates his own white privilege in the official News-Press podcast when deriding the school board’s only elected black leader for his passionate words and the student board member for being emotional.

The survey showing over 50 percent of respondents favoring no change was poorly constructed asking only two yes-no-no opinion questions without explanation of why the questions were asked in the first place. It was not a vote and cannot be treated as such. Some like Mr. Delaney feel that the community spoke to keep the names; others hear a different message, that we in Falls Church are unwilling to make our own changes in response to the call for justice in 2020. In the past, the school board has treated surveys as informational not definitive. The school board is the final authority in choosing a school name.

Gordon Theisz

Falls Church


Councilman Snyder: Honor the Survey, Keep the Names

Editor,

The School Board has done an excellent job of creating a forum for the expression of all views on whether the City should change the names of our high school and elementary school. Ultimately, the schools belong to the entire community, and the entire community has spoken clearly, although my own views differ.

It has always been a guiding principle for me that in our highly educated and engaged community a primary role of elected officials is to provide our citizens with full and accurate information, listen to and respect all views, and ultimately implement the wishes of our community as responsibly as possible.

The real issues of assuring equity and fairness do not begin or end with name changes but rather are daily work we each must do. That is one major reason why for two decades, I have supported the schools and public safety for all, affordable housing, effective public transportation, and environmental quality while assuring wise use of resources and tax rates as low as practical, considering the governmental services our citizens expect and deserve.

David Snyder

Falls Church


Slaveowner Names Of Mason, Jefferson Should Be Dropped

Editor,

We appreciate the courageous statements of Vice Mayor Marybeth Connelly, Council member Letty Hardi and School Board member Lawrence Webb.
Our children are ‘lifers’ and graduates of the Falls Church City schools.Our grandchildren are TJ Tigers.

“How can we attend a school named after a slave owner?” they asked. Their dad had the same question in the 1990s as a starting five basketball player at then-J.E.B. Stuart, now Justice High School. We are the City of Falls Church and we know that it’s the right thing to do. Change the name.

June & Mike Beyer

Falls Church


Respect the Will of the People & Keep the School Names

Editor,

Whatever the state of democracy at the national level, the question for us is whether it survives here, and in particular do members of the School Board (or the City Council who attempt to influence Board matters) respect the will of the people in expressing overwhelming opposition to renaming the Mason and Jefferson schools?

With a message of opposition coming from every segment of the community defined by the Board itself, the people have told the Board to unify rather than divide, to teach history rather than join the cancel culture and delete it, to practice the critical thinking required in our much-touted IB program rather than binary thinking, and to spend no more time or money on school renaming.

Opposition was expressed, from teenage students to octogenarians, by nearly 3 to 1 in a survey professionally administered by a company that prevented irregularities, and by more than 2/3 of Public Comments to the Board during 12 meetings, plus 17 of 26 verbal comments and 26 of 31 written comments during public hearings. This is not a community where the Board or Council “know better” than our highly educated citizenry. Moreover, the unacceptable weaponizing of “progressive” and the demagoguery displayed at the Board’s last meeting have no place in the City.

Tom Johnson

Falls Church


Mason, Jefferson Names Should Stay, Be Tool for Learning

Editor,

What is the role of education in promoting social justice and equality? How do our students obtain knowledge and experiences for becoming good citizens? Important questions through out our history and even more important today. Our Falls Church City School Board will vote next week about changing the names of George Mason High School and Thomas Jefferson Elementary both valued institutions in our community.

As an educator who has taught in both for 30 years and have continued substituting for 20 more, I do not agree that the names should be changed.
Our School Board contracted with an outside consultant for a survey that concluded that only about 26 percent of respondents agreed with a possible name change. The main reasons seem to be that these two men owned slaves and that the ownership of other human beings should never be acceptable then or now. However, these same men along many others who were also slave owners had the foresight to create a democracy that is like no other. Was it perfect? No, but it allowed for changes and growth that continues to this day.

How do we educate our students within this dichotomy? Does it make any sense to just delete these names?

No. Our schools should use this history as a basis for learning, for research, conversations, debates about understanding our history and how it influences us now and our future. The good, the bad and the ugly have to be addressed so that changes can continue. Our Falls Church City Schools are more than ready to meet this challenge.

Lindy Hockenberry

Falls Church


Letters to the Editor may be submitted to [email protected] or via our online form here. Letters should be limited to 350 words and may be edited for content, clarity and length. To view the FCNP’s letter and submission policy, please click here