The decision of the Arlington School Board to develop criteria for the renaming of the “new elementary school at the Drew Model School site” is a most curious one.
When asked about the rationale for that decision, a School Board member informed the Nauck Civic Association the renaming of Drew was in accordance with board policy for naming new programs. Unlike the new middle school, new Montessori school, and the Wilson site building, there is no new or improved facility proposed for Drew … merely a variation of its decades-long status as a neighborhood school.
More to the point, a review of board documents available online revealed no mention of a requirement/tradition for renaming new programs. What was revealed was the recommendation by the School for Conflict Analysis and Resolution at George Mason University to separate processes for renaming and naming upcoming structures: The facilitated meetings revealed a strong desire for continued conversation around these topics with an overwhelming consensus that the process for renaming a school and naming upcoming schools be separate. The community expressed, both in the surveys and during the facilitated dialogues, combining these two topics is nearly impossible as these issues involved two different ideologies. It would appear the School Board has determined the wise recommendation should be ignored in favor of “doing the impossible.”
The dynamics so prevalent in Arlington are acute in Nauck — a neighborhood that is highly desirable to newcomers with far more wealth than its traditional residents. And more often than not, the newer residents are of a different race/culture than traditional residents.
Since its inception Nauck has been a community that welcomes newcomers, regardless of their resources or race. But it is also a community that treasures its precious heritage. When so few Arlington schools are named after African-American heroes, how curious that the School Board would deem it appropriate to rename one of them (especially since that school will simply house a “new” program rather than be a new building). While the nation is revisiting the appropriateness of honoring slave owners, the Arlington School Board is revisiting the appropriateness of honoring black folk. When Arlington integrated its schools, only black kids were bused. Most spent more than two-hours being bused to their new schools, which had a devastating impact on the Nauck community and its children. How ironic that now that Drew is about to regain its status as the heart of the community, a name that has stood since 1952 has been placed on the drawing board. The goal of the School Board should be to ameliorate tensions between old and new residents … not needlessly exacerbate them.