The most thankless job anyone could ever aspire to in a community may be to serve on a school board.
It appears our school board will get to tackle a potentially contentious issue Monday, the fact we have a high school named Robert E. Lee.
The narrative around our nation right now is to move away from statues, symbols and other associations with the players from the South in the Civil War.
For reasons unique to our community, it is time to rename the school.
Our Lee high school was so named when it was built in 1958 as a school educating predominantly white students. In today’s world, we can never know the context involved in the decision. Regardless of motivations then, and those that have kept it in place until now, this is an opportunity to move away from any misconceptions once and for all.
One question we could easily answer is whether we would name a brand new school Robert E. Lee? If the answer is clear that it would be divisive, then how does it profit us to move forward by insisting we keep what has already been a contentious tradition?
We would be missing the point if we viewed rebranding as a cultural inevitability or phenomenon. This is not about acquiescing to revisionist history, but about moving to a posture of excellence as a community in our messaging and embracing new traditions.
The 2004 TISD bond issue was the first in a series of new traditions and promises to this community in more than two generations.
Kevin Eltife kicked off the bond campaign with the statement “the children of this community belong to all of us.”
He was right.
So do the facilities.
So do the educational outcomes.
So do the marketing images we project both here and beyond.
Decisive leadership now will allow us to reflect the better nature of our community, which has changed significantly since the school was built. Let’s be an example of how to tackle a tough issue in an environment of mutual respect.
The most important thing we can do right now is stand with our school board as they process the many voices in this dialogue and give board members the time they need to navigate the issue. We did not get here yesterday and will not solve the issue tomorrow.
It will take time to address the issue completely and transparently. The board needs to process this outside of the chaos of the moment and adopt a methodical approach to any solutions.
This board has demonstrated to the community they are trustworthy. The best evidence is the recent passage of the largest bond issue in the history of the district by a margin of 83 percent.
Our board members need to hear a bold message of support from business and community leaders that they will stand with them from start to finish on this issue. A good start would be for those individuals to attend the school board meeting Monday. I plan to attend and hope you will, too.
The TISD school board meeting will be held at 7 p.m. Monday in the Jim Plyler Instructional Complex at 807 W. Glenwood.
Nelson Clyde is Publisher of the Tyler Morning Telegraph and a 1982 graduate of Robert E. Lee High School.