As a former Fairfax County School Board member and a native of Fairfax County, I watched the name changing deliberations about JEB Stuart High School with interest. It appears since leaving the board the education of students and financing such education has taken second place to the social agendas of board members.
The frustration about this issue was the members refused to listen to the facts of history and preferred to make assumptions about the man himself, JEB Stuart, and assumptions about the community, the Civil War, the original naming of the school and of Virginia’s state history. These School Board members, most of whom are from other parts of the country, were compelled to listen to sound bites from two Hollywood personalities who knew little about the history of the school and JEB Stuart. They also listened to activists, one being George Albers, an appointee of Chairman Sharon Bulova’s who currently sits on the Fairfax County Human Rights Committee and on the Executive Committee of the local NAACP chapter. He and two School Board members worked to bring in hundreds of community activists from outside the community and county to attend local community meetings on the renaming of the school for purposes of protesting and agitation. These activists knew little about the history of Virginia and JEB Stuart.
In the end I have no doubt the system spent thousands of dollars and staff time on this issue, for that is what is done; but for what, to appease a vocal group over the wishes of the impacted community? In 2011 Sandy Evans, the School Board member representing the Stuart Community who pushed for the name change, announced she had a most difficult time voting against a community’s wishes and would not do such a thing. I remember this because she voted against a motion of mine that was very controversial which required a great deal of defined community input and was carefully analyzed as it related to fiscal responsibility. Years ago Ms. Evans lost on my motion and when all is said and done she may have lost again on her own issue. Her motion passed but the political capital she spent was high. She and other members of the School Board may have underestimated the importance of fair process and the power of history and truth; a very sad situation to be in as an elected representative.