OKLAHOMA CITY - The Oklahoma City Public Schools board has voted unanimously to confirm choices submitted to them by a committee to rename three elementary schools that were previously named for confederate generals.
"The naming process was a great way to involve the community," said Board Member Carrie Coppernoll Jacobs. "It's their schools, and they should be the ones that have ownership."
The board voted to start the process of changing the names back in October. Online surveys were performed for nominations, then committees were put together at each school to pick a list of two of names to then be voted on by the students themselves.
"I am really proud of our community and our students for having this courageous conversations about the values we hold," said Acting Superintendent Rebecca Kaye.
Jackson Elementary becomes Mary Ross Elementary. Mary Golda Ross was a well-respected Native American astronautics engineer. The Cherokee tribe member worked for Lockheed Martin in the early days of the U.S. space program.
Finally, Stand Watie Elementary will now be known as Esperanza Elementary. Esperanza means hope in Spanish.
There was some debate whether Lee Elementary was named for Robert E. Lee, the confederate general of Oscar G. Lee, the first Oklahoma City downtown real estate mogul. But, now, it wont matter; Lee stays Lee Elementary but will officially be called Adelaide Lee in honor of the wife of Oscar. Adelaide was a philanthropist and established many opportunities for women to pursue further education in the early decades of the 20th century.
But, keeping the name Lee didn’t sit well with some.
"You are going to keep the name Lee on the building when it was named after a confederate general Lee," said Board Member Charles Henry. "That’s a slap in the face to us as African Americans that you would do that."
"How people feel about names is up those people," Kaye said. "The students had the ability to make the final selection about the names.”
The signage at Lee and the other schools will be changed at the cost of about$40,000 per elementary and should be ready by the start of school next year.