|Advocates of a name change for Stuart High School at a school board meeting in June.|
According to an observer, “there seems to be a growing consensus that the name has to change.” There is also recognition among the board members, however, that there needs to be a compromise about what the new name should be and that a decision on whether the name should be changed or not should reflect more than a simple majority of board members.
Board members did not agree to the wording of a draft resolution proposed by Sandy Evans (Mason) and plan to draft a new resolution before the July 27 board meeting.
The draft resolution states that “there is a compelling need to change the name of JEB Stuart High School to one that better reflects Fairfax County values and diversity and one in keeping with the One Fairfax Resolution.” [One Fairfax, adopted by the school board and Board of Supervisors a year ago, calls for a racial and social equity policy to underlie all county services.]
The draft resolution states that the compelling need is based on these factors: “the name’s clear and overarching association with the Confederate cause”; the fact that many foundational principles of the Confederacy run counter to the values of diversity, inclusion, and equity that are fundamental to the mission” of FCPS; and that “the namesake does not have another principal legacy or contribution to the community.”
Karen Corbett Sanders (Mount Vernon), Megan McLaughlin (Braddock), and Thomas Wilson (Sully) indicated they could support a name change if there is a compromise and there is a strong majority. McLaughlin, Schultz, and Wilson also appeared to favor delaying a vote.
One of the compromises suggested at the work session was to drop “JEB” and retain the name Stuart in honor of the entire Stuart family. According to proponents of that option, JEB Stuart’s family also included heroes in the Revolutionary War and War of 1812, senators, and judges.
Another alternative presented at the meeting was to retain the name Stuart, but have the school named for Gilbert Stuart, the early American artist best known for his portraits of George Washington and other presidents. This Stuart is from Rhode Island, however, and doesn’t have a connection to Virginia.
Those in favor of keeping the Stuart name argued it would be a cost-saving measure, as the school wouldn’t have to replace athletic or band uniforms.
When board members asked Bill Curran, FCPS director of activities and athletic programs, about the potential cost of a name change, he wasn’t able to produce any cost estimates in writing and said he didn’t know how much it would cost to replace signs in the building.
Those opposed to a name change had previously cited estimates as high as $750,000 to $1 million – but that would include $250,000 for spirit wear, optional athletic accessories, and personal property. Most of those expenses would be covered by booster clubs, however.
According to a previous estimates from the FCPS facilities department, all signs inside and outside the building could be replaced for $23,500. Other costs – which are already in the FCPS or budget or in the booster club’s fundraising plan – total $654,500. No one from the facilities department was at the school board work session.
In fact, there has been a lack of communication throughout the whole process, a community member said. And there hasn’t been an effort to find an objective third party to affirm or dispute the historical claims presented by name change opponents.
The ad hoc committee established by the school board a year ago to consider a name change failed to reach a consensus and instead of submitting a unified proposal, split into two factions – one supporting a name change and one opposing it.