Opinion: Letter to the Editor: Importance Of Legacy

Opinion: Letter to the Editor: Importance Of Legacy

In accordance with a policy mandating the renaming of schools with new programs, the Arlington County School Board is moving forward with the renaming of Drew. The “new” program, however is little more than making Drew a neighborhood school again.

It was a neighborhood school from its inception in the 1950s until desegregation. In recent past it was a hybrid-neighborhood school due to a long-fought battle by the Nauck community. Now that Drew has finally regained its status as the heart and soul of Nauck, the School Board has decided its renaming is warranted.

This is most ironic since the only reason the name was changed in the first place was the assumption parents of white students would not want their kids to attend school in a black neighborhood unless that school was somehow “new and improved.” It had to be better than it was when Drew Elementary School served black kids only. Hence, the name “Drew Elementary School” was dropped.

There is some support for the renaming because of correspondence from APS that used six different names for Drew in the very same document. I would argue the appropriate response to shoddy staff work is not a renaming committee but more effective leadership. This is especially true since Drew was known as “Drew Elementary School” for decades … as is currently the case for almost 80 percent of Arlington’s elementary schools. If it believed this was a decision it had to make, the School Board could have presented the policy to Nauck community with supporting documentation, and solicited their input on the impact of opening the door to a name change. Instead attendees at a Nauck Civic Association were informed of the decision as if it was a done deal and told they could apply for the Drew Renaming Committee. I deem that comment akin to “let them eat cake.”

Because the motivation behind the renaming of Drew has been attributed to an APS policy of renaming schools with new programs, I did an exhaustive search of the APS website for documents that would shed light on the definition of “new program” and found nothing. Last spring I pursued this with School Board staff and was informed there is no such policy.

It would appear the School Board suffers from the same affliction as Trump – Emperoritis. What the children of Arlington need is not royalty who lord over them with whimsical policies, but pragmatists with an unwavering commitment to equity as well as a profound appreciation for the exquisite link between a neighborhood, its heritage and its future. What is most astounding is the supposition that what is novel takes precedence over a legacy that has withstood the test of time as well as the ravages of not only segregation but desegregation. That simply does not make sense to me.

Jacqueline Coachman