To the editor:
I am writing to express my deep disappointment in the decisions made, or rather not made, by the Alexandria City Public Schools Board on July 10 in addressing the racist name of T.C. Williams High School.
The board could have committed immediately to changing the name and then asked for a report and a process about what the new name might be. But as of now, school will reopen under the shameful name T.C. Williams High School while ACPS undergoes a process to consider changing the name. By hiding behind easily changed administrative processes, the school board missed an opportunity to end the legacy of racism.
I am further troubled by the mischaracterization of the movement to rename our high school as a new issue of concern only to African Americans. The lack of change impacts all students regardless of race or heritage.
While the name change was formally raised and dismissed more than two decades ago, it has been informally raised often. Then as now, it is not just two leaders, Glenn Hopkins and Howard Woodson, calling for this, or even just their organizations. It is a broad coalition of Alexandrians of all races appealing for change.
Of course, student and community involvement in the naming of our high school matters. But as leaders, the school board and superintendent should set the example. By not dropping the name now, they are saying it is acceptable to continue to have the name of an avowed segregationist and racist on the building.
This is an exceedingly difficult time. Fully implementing a name change will involve many steps, including time to get input and no doubt some measure of expense. But committing to the decision to change the name itself requires none of those things.
Changing the name also need not interfere with the planning for the 2020-2021 school year. It could have been a committed decision with a process to be determined later. But it wasn’t. The only commitment now is getting a report with recommendations presented by Spring 2021.
I urge the school board to address this again at the August meeting and make their commitment clear. It shouldn’t take more than 10 minutes, with the balance of the meeting for addressing the needs of students in the fall.
-Julie N. Jakopic, Alexandria