After months, and actually years, of intense debate, the TISD board voted unanimously to change the names of the two public high schools in Tyler.

This conversation has been going for so many years. I remember, as a Robert E. Lee student, hearing this issue discussed so many times. Many wanted to change the name even then, but there was so much push back that, inevitably, life would simply move on.

In light of recent events and the amplified community concern and awareness of the Black Lives Matter movement, the time has come. It's taken awhile--but finally, here we are.

People have conflicting views regarding the rightness (or not) in changing the names of two Tyler high schools named after a confederate general and a U.S. President--both of whom were slave owners. The reasons given not to change the name--whether because of the history, tradition, or other reasons--are numerous.

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For me, at the end of the day, what matters is that the students in our East Texas high schools feel fully heard and seen--and that they feel 100% comfortable to be who they are without sensing a shadow behind them. High school and adolescence are hard enough without having to bear this psychological weight.

I hope those who are still staunchly opposed and offended at the name changes will open their hearts and empathize. Imagine how you'd feel. Really--think about it. Those who embrace a faith--what would the spiritual figures of those creeds say? Any steps we can take to show love and understanding should take precedent.

Changing the names of these high schools doesn't change the history. But--it will set a precedent for a more compassionate and empowering future for ALL of our kids in East Texas. For that, I'm very grateful.

To quote the great Martin Luther King, Jr:

The arc of the moral universe is long, but it bends toward justice.

And now, at least in this small way--it has. It was time.

Here's the official statement from the TISD Board:

During tonight’s special meeting of the Tyler ISD Board of Trustees, the Board unanimously voted in favor of adjusting the names of Robert E. Lee and John Tyler high schools. After lengthy discussions of associated costs should the names be adjusted and personal statements by each trustee, a motion to vote on the action item was made by Artis Newsome, District 2, and seconded by Board Vice President Aaron Martinez, District 5.

“This has been a trying time to be a Board member to say the least,” Board President Wade Washmon said. “But I do believe the Board has made a decision that will remove a growing obstacle to our focus on successful student outcomes and has removed an issue that will only serve to be divisive for the community and future boards. We look forward to turning our focus back to successful student outcomes.”

“As always, I appreciate the Board’s work,” Superintendent Dr. Marty Crawford said. “Public service is sometimes a thankless commitment that is under-appreciated for the time given in place of personal business and family time. Concerning this issue, the Board was acutely sensitive to comments and commentary and realizes the significance of their decision.”

After the vote in favor of adjusting the high school names passed, the Board held a First Reading to revise policy CW (LOCAL) for naming District facilities. Suggested policy CW (LOCAL) revisions can be found in tonight’s Board meeting agenda.