“Depending on the new name, the cost to the District could be extensive,” said NEISD board president Shannon Grona. “The marquee, signs around campus, the end zone, all of the athletic uniforms, dance, cheer, and band uniforms, etc. As a trustee, it is our responsibility to be fiscally responsible. We can minimize the number of things that need to be changed at the school.”
The push for the name change came after the violent, pro-Confederate rally in Charlottesville, Virginia on August 12. “We must make a statement against the White Supremacy movement,” said Gianno Gomez, the 19-year-old who started the online petition that inspired the board to revisit the name after it received 3,763 signatures.
The board unanimously voted to change the name on August 29, although they called it a “no-win situation,” saying it had become a disruption to students and a potential safety concern for students and staff.
NEISD opened an online submission form to the public for new school names from September 19-25, but many submissions, like “Schooly McSchoolface” and some that mentioned Adolf Hitler, were thrown out before the board made their decision on Monday. More than a hundred people submitted “no change,” and several LEE acronyms, like “Legacy of Educational Excellence,” made it through to the final round.
Jim Wheat and Edd White were the only two NEISD board members who voted against the new name — White pointed out that over the years, the district had tried to make Robert E. Lee High School more “palatable” by removing the Confederate flag from uniforms, and no longer performing “Dixie” during football games, according to the San Antonio-Express News.
“I just think we’re trying to put lipstick on a pig if you’re still gonna have the acronym LEE,” White said.
White and Wheat had been the only two board members to vote in favor of renaming Robert E. Lee High School back in 2015, when student Kayla Wilson had also started a petition to rename the school after Dylann Roof killed nine African-American churchgoers in Charleston, South Carolina in a rampage openly driven by racist beliefs.
Prior to choosing the name on Monday, Grona said the Board had received hateful emails, and that “the attacks on the Board prove that tensions are high,” according to a statement from the District.
District administration will decide on school colors and a mascot for LEE high in the near future, although Grona recommended keeping the original Volunteer mascot and red and gray school colors.