School stakeholders turn up to vote in renaming process

JACKSONVILLE, Fla. — Dozens of people lined up outside of Robert E. Lee High School Monday morning to vote in the renaming process.

Eligible community members can vote in the renaming of Andrew Jackson, Jean Ribault, and Robert E. Lee High Schools, and Jean Ribault Middle School starting on April 26.

A mother and her daughter, both alumni of Robert E. Lee High School, showed up at the school to vote. The mother, Pauline Carter, graduated in 1951, and is in support of the name change.

“When I came to school here, it was a segregated school and there were no Blacks here and the situation is so different now. If it’s 70 percent Black, then they need to make that decision,” Carter said. “We didn’t even think about the name being connected to slavery when we were here. We were just the Lee Generals. We loved it, but if it’s going to offend anybody, let them have it the way they want it. We had our day, they can have theirs.”

Carter’s daughter, Joyce Harmen, an alum from 1977, is against the name change.

“It just needs to stay the same. We need to have our wonderful memories from when we grew up. It was never a problem to me, and it’s still not a problem to me,” Harmen said. “I mean, I just don’t think it’s necessary to change it. We learn from mistakes. If Robert E. Lee made mistakes, we’ll learn from them. We won’t do it again.”

Other alum who supported keeping the name wanted to do so for memory-sake.

“I was an alumni, and this was an important part of my life going to high school here,” Rebecca Allen, a graduate from 1974, said. “I just don’t like the thought, especially my age, of not having a claim to any kind of high school name.”

Community members who did not attend the school also showed up to voice their opinions.

“I think the name Robert E. Lee is racist and it’s time to end that and get into the 21st century. I think that Riverside High School is the most accurate name for a school that my son may be going to one day and I don’t want him going to a school named for a confederate traitor,” Larry Hannan told WOKV.

Eligible voters include: students, staff, parents of the PTA, alumni, community members and the School Advisory Council. The SAC will vote separately on May 10.

Everyone who votes need to bring a picture ID. Community members within a school’s attendance zone will also have to bring a piece of mail (utility bill, tax collector’s bill, etc.) that shows proof of residency. Alumni members will be required to show an picture ID card. Alumni of the school before 2008 will also need to bring an artifact, including but not limited to, a diploma, yearbook, or other school issued artifact with the person’s name. If the person’s name has changed since leaving the school, they will need to provide a court ordered name change document, marriage certificate, or divorce decree.

Students will also have a chance to vote during the school day, outside of instruction time.

The voting period runs through Friday, May 7. The voting period at the four schools are 10 a.m. through 6:30 p.m. from Monday through Friday.

Once this voting process is over, the Supervisor of Elections will count all nine school ballots in mid-May with a canvassing board. Those results will then be given to the Superintendent who will make her recommendation to the School Board based of those results.

The School Board will make their final decision on each school’s possible renaming during a school board meeting on June 1.

Hannah Lee

Hannah Lee

Hannah Lee is a General Assignment Reporter for 104.5 WOKV.

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