Shared from the 5/23/2019 Amarillo Globe News eEdition

History made, history revisited at AISD school board meeting

History was made during executive session at the Amarillo Independent School District board meeting Tuesday evening. Trustee Robin Malone was unanimously elected by her fellow board members to serve as president of the board on the heels of John Blanchard’s resignation, which was accepted during the meeting. Also, Trustee Cristy Wilkinson was unanimously elected by her fellow board members to serve as vice president of the board.

The appointment of Malone and Wilkinson made AISD Board of Trustee history as Malone is the first black woman to serve as president and Wilkinson is the first former educator to be elected as an officer.

During the meeting, outgoing board members Jim Austin, John Betancourt, and Scott Flow officially vacated their BOT seats; Malone, Dick Ford, Kimberly Anderson and Alonzo Everhart were sworn in.

The new board members along with current Trustees Wilkinson and Renee McCown revisited a topic the board previously voted on: the renaming of Lee Elementary School.

On January 21, the previous board voted 4-3 to keep a portion of the Robert E. Lee Elementary School name, Lee Elementary. Former board members Betancourt, Blanchard, and James Allen voted for no inclusion of Lee’s name on the school.

“I have always been in favor of changing it from Lee to something else,” Blanchard said. “The administration (will look) at various names, including neighborhood names, and (people will) bring alternatives to the board and ... after a public hearing, they’ll vote on a name change.”

The BOT voted in April to revise CW (LOCAL) Naming Facilities, providing additional guidance to the board for naming facilities in the district.

Tuesday, the board unanimously voted to consider once again changing the name of Lee Elementary School, based on a request from the Amarillo branch NAACP.

“As a great-great grandson of a Buffalo soldier, a veteran myself, and the father of a West Point graduate, there’s only one flag I stand for and I fight for,” said David Lovejoy, US Army ret., and Amarillo NAACP first vice president. “That Confederate regalia has a place — it’s in your home, in your head, (and) in your heart, not on public buildings.”

“If the United States was going to attack Texas, I’m not about to say, no I took this oath, I’m not going to defend Texas against the United States,” said Mike Moore. “I’d say hand me your gun and point me to the trenches and that’s exactly what Robert E. Lee did.”

During the public comment portion of the meeting, Moore, US Navy ret., spoke in favor of the Lee name and defended Lee’s actions against Republican President Abraham Lincoln’s Union Army as General of the Confederate Army of Virginia.

“A lot of northerners wanted slavery to be abolished but they didn’t want free blacks to move into the north. They just wanted black people to be bottled up in the south and that was just a permanent problem for the south to deal with,” Moore said. “Robert E. Lee was an honorable man, unlike the fellow living in the White House right now, he never cheated on his wife, he set a great example for everyone, both north and south ... certainly not a traitor.”


After being sworn in, the new Amarillo Independent School District Board gets to work on the business at hand. [NEIL STARKEY / FOR THE AMARILLO GLOBE-NEWS]


(back row) Doug Loomis, Renee McCown, John Ben Blanchard, Robin Malone and Cristy Wilkinson honor (seated) John Betancourt, Jim Austin and Scott Flow with personalized chairs as they step down from the Amarillo Independent School District Board of Trustees. [NEIL


Before the board voted, Blanchard remarked, “Whether you support the name change or not, there’s one thing that is undisputed and that is, this is divisive issue — it’s torn the community apart in some respect.”

Blachard said the divisive issue detracts from the mission to graduate students prepared for success.

It is unclear when the board will formerly vote on the name change.

“Based on the action of the board tonight, I will gather information from our parents and the staff at Lee. Because we have two days of school left, I’m going to work really hard to try to get feedback,” said Doug Loomis, AISD superintendent. “If I can get significant feedback ... I would hope I can get this back in front of the board this summer.”

Loomis said with such limited time remaining in the school year, it is possible the board may not vote on the name change again until the 2019-20 school year begins.

“That’s not my hope and I’m going to work really hard to get it done,” he said.

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