FAIRFAX COUNTY, VA (WUSA9) - It was another wrinkle in the controversy surrounding the push to change the name of J.E.B. Stuart High School in Fairfax County.
The school system had planned to spend up to $100,000 on a facilitator to lead a committee looking into the name change.
But no one knew about the plan to spend money to hire someone, said Denise Patton, an opponent to the name change. She's angry because surveys of both district residents and students found most are against the name change.
"What's wrong is that the community has spoken, the community is against a name change for many reasons,” she said. “One is money. J.E.B. Stuart needs money for the kids, not for a name change, and the community has said that. Also, the distortion of history."
Patton ia a former history teacher who lives in the Stuart district.
"J.E.B. Stuart was here at Munson Hill,” she said “He's famous for his Quaker Gun deception.”
There have been passionate speeches about the need to change the name of J.E.B. Stuart, one of the most diverse high schools in the nation. Supporters argued that a public school should not be named after a confederate war hero.
"We do not think it's appropriate to commemorate the values of the Confederacy today. The values of the Confederacy were white supremacy, slavery, and they fought to preserve that,” said George Alber, an executive board member of the Fairfax County NAACP chapter which is advocating the name change.
“So all the tactics, as brilliant as they were, and all the strategies, as brilliant as they were, were in the cause of slavery and white supremacy,” he added. “And when you say J.E.B. Stuart, that's really what you're celebrating.”
It's estimated to cost $750,000 to change the name. School board member Elizabeth Schultz said no money should be spent to change the name because the community doesn't want it and funding for schools is tight.
"We're already in a strained position,” Schultz said. “This is where we have, I think, an extra fiduciary responsibility as school board members to be cautious with the money that we spend."
School board chair Sandy Evans who represents the Stuart district is backing a name change. She said the cost to hire a facilitator would only be about $20,000, not $100,000. At 4 p.m. Wednesday, she said they were re-thinking the proposal to hire a facilitator.
After WUSA9's story aired, an email from Supt. Dr. Karen Garza went out to parents of Stuart families telling them that the plan to hire a facilitator has been put on hold, but the working group will continue to meet on its own.
Read an excerpt of that email below:
A solicitation for the facilitator was conducted via standard FCPS procurement process, with the expectation that the cost would not exceed $20,000. A facilitator has not yet been hired, however, and this decision will be temporarily put on hold.
As directed by the Board motion, the working group will weigh the pros and cons of a name change; continue to ensure public engagement and determine the extent of support for change; explore public-private partnerships to finance any name change; examine ways to prevent added burdens on the school’s booster clubs, PTSA, and Stuart school administration; decide the best method for transitioning from an old name to a new one; ensure proper record retention; and set the best timing for such a change, if approved by the Board. The working group will also provide ideas for ways to honor and preserve the school’s history, traditions, and past achievements, and to memorialize its decades as J.E.B. Stuart High School.