Reagan rename takes different direction

Reagan and Lanier the most recent AISD schools facing name changes

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Reagan rename takes different direction

The marquee of Reagan High School Early High School will have to be changed after the Board of Trustees voted to rename the school Northeast High School.

The marquee of Reagan High School Early High School will have to be changed after the Board of Trustees voted to rename the school Northeast High School.

Jazzabelle Davishines

The marquee of Reagan High School Early High School will have to be changed after the Board of Trustees voted to rename the school Northeast High School.

Jazzabelle Davishines

Jazzabelle Davishines

The marquee of Reagan High School Early High School will have to be changed after the Board of Trustees voted to rename the school Northeast High School.

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After more than a year of deliberation and debate, the much anticipated and highly contested name change of two AISD high schools with Confederate namesakes has finally occurred. On Feb. 26, 2019, the AISD Board of Trustees voted to rename John H. Reagan Early College High School. It was originally named for John H. Reagan, a former Texas congressman and chairman of the Railroad Commission of Texas. However, Reagan was also the Secretary of the Treasury in the Confederate Cabinet and a staunch supporter of slavery in the United States.

It will be expensive, and there are many alumnae who are not happy about changing the name of their old school; however, it is the right thing to do.”

— Reagan English teacher Joe Dunlap

On March 25, the board voted to change the name of Lanier High School to Juan Navarro High School. Navarro is an alumnus of the school who was killed while serving in the United States Armed Forces in Afghanistan in 2012.

The naming of buildings and organizations in honor of historical figures who were in support of the Confederacy or otherwise held racist beliefs has been a debate for several years now. Austin has seen multiple changes as a result of the conversations, such as when the University of Texas at Austin removed statues depicting Confederate officers.

Some say that history should not be erased, while others argue that the preservation of history is possible without condoning racism.

John H. Reagan in office as Postmaster-General of the Confederate States. Photo from Wikimedia Commons.

“This name change has been a challenge for our school,” Reagan English teacher Joe Dunlap said. “It will be expensive, and there are many alumnae who are not happy about changing the name of their old school; however, it is the right thing to do.”

While the merit of the decision has been debated, the cost of renaming the school is a fact. Changing marquees, jerseys and more will be expensive. One proposal to minimize the cost at Reagan was to eliminate the first name and middle initial from the title, leaving just Reagan High School as the name; this idea, however, was rejected. Another suggestion was to name the school after president Barack H. Obama, but this idea was also eventually rejected.

There was only one vote against the [Reagan] name change on the board, coming from board member Ann Teich.”

After a great deal of deliberation, the board reached a conclusion. The final decision for the new name was Northeast High School.

A name based on location, rather than a person, is a different direction from other renamings. Several other schools that have been renamed in the district, such as Sarah Lively Middle School and Navarro High School, were also done so because of Confederate ties, but Reagan is the first school so far to receive a name based on location rather than a significant person.

“During the Civil Rights Movement of the 1960s, there was a wave of Confederate monuments and statues created in opposition to African American’s struggle for equal rights,” Dunlap said. “Reagan High School was built in 1964, and named after a cabinet member of the Confederate government. It is way past time to erase this reminder of a shameful past.”

There was only one vote against the name change on the board, coming from board member Ann Teich. Despite this disagreement, the motion was passed. However, the controversy surrounding the change, due to both emotional and historical ties to the historic name of the institution, may affect future discussion concerning renaming AISD schools.

 

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