Opinion: Letter to the Editor: Irreconcilable Differences

Opinion: Letter to the Editor: Irreconcilable Differences

Last Thursday, the Fairfax County School Board (FCSB) voted to change the name of J.E.B. Stuart High School to another as yet undetermined name. Mason District Rep. Sandra Evans made the motion to change the name, then Braddock District Rep. Kaufax made a substitute motion that the decision be postponed until the FCSB completed the procedures set forth in their own regulation no. 8170.7 Part IV, as they had not done. The superintendent had not yet conveyed to the FCSB the required report and terms essential in the determination had not been defined, such as "community support," "sufficient support" and "compelling need." A survey of the adjacent community found that 35 percent of over 3,400 respondents supported the name change (56 percent opposed the name change). A survey of current students was only responded to by 10 percent of them, confirming that changing the name is not an important topic to them. Of the 10 percent, only one-third of them supported changing the name, meaning barely 3 percent of the students supported the name change. Mrs. Evans decided to define the above-identified terms such that 35 percent of the community and 3 percent of the students demonstrate a "compelling need" and "sufficient support" for the change.

The substitute motion was considered first and Mount Vernon Rep. Karen Corbett Sanders explained in detail why she thought the substitute motion should be approved. She explained she is the only member of the FCSB who had attended a Fairfax County High School whose name had been changed (Groveton to West Potomac). She explained that it took fully 30 years for the pain of that name change to subside. From this perspective, she counseled that the FCSB should proceed extremely cautiously. See link beginning at 2:05:30: https://www.youtube.com/watch?v=M20S98ndwkA She said:

"However, I think that for the healing of this community and for good governance and modeling, I would like us to complete the policy that was laid out in our regulations. This is not a delay. This recommendation, this motion is to complete the process. It's not a delay."

"The request is important not only for JEB Stuart's decision but equally for the operation of this Board and this school system. We establish policies, regulations and procedures to ensure that this school system operates in the most effective manner to ensure our students' success. We also should model the adherence to our policies and regulations."

She then discussed the costs resulting from the name change and stated her support for Mrs. Kaufax's motion (she voted in favor). When the vote was taken, the motion failed by a vote of 6-5. Then, the FCSB took up Mrs. Evans' motion to change the name. After much discussion, the motion passed. Ms. Corbett Sanders voted in support of Mrs. Evans' motion. One can't reconcile Ms. Corbett Sanders' votes on these two motions. Based upon her comments supporting the motion to postpone, her second vote cannot be rationally explained.

If you favor changing the name of the school, you are probably pleased. But before you celebrate, think of the ramifications of the name change. At the hearing, it was pointed out that directly across the street from the school is a county park named J.E.B. Stuart Park. What happens if the Park Authority Board refuses to change the name? Are the names of schools named in honor of slave owners such as Robert E. Lee, James Madison, and Thomas Jefferson going to be changed? One Board member pointed out that in Fairfax County (Lord Fairfax was a slave owner ), there are over 100 schools, parks, streets, subdivisions, and magisterial districts named after former members of the Confederacy and other slave owners. What will the cost be to change all these other names in the name of political correctness? The estimate for this one name change is anywhere from $600,000 to $1 million. Our public schools are running at a current $70 million deficit. Where is the money coming from? The Mount Vernon District is not well-served by the poor judgment of Karen Corbett Sanders. The next School Board election is in 2019.

Heaven help us in Fairfax County. Open your wallets!

H. Jay Spiegel

Mount Vernon