Community discussion heats up as Tyler ISD prepares for large turnout of residents discussing fate of the name of Robert E. Lee High School

Published on Friday, 18 August 2017 19:51 - Written by CORY MCCOY, comccoy@tylerpaper.com

Tyler ISD is preparing for a large turnout at Monday’s board of trustees meeting as community members share their opinions about changing the name of Robert E. Lee High School.

The meeting has sparked a debate among those who would like to see the school renamed and those who want to preserve it.

The discussion is not a meeting agenda item.  Residents will have an opportunity to voice their opinion during the public comment section of the meeting. Residents wishing to speak must sign up at least 10 minutes prior to the meeting.

Public comment typically runs for up to 30 minutes, with each speaker allotted up to five minutes each. Board President Fritz Hager said the board can extend the comment time or reduce individual speaker time at their discretion, in accordance with state law.

“We expect people to be professional and courteous,” Hager said. “This will not become an unruly meeting, and we look forward to hearing what the public has to say.”

The district does have a plan in place for security, TISD Communication Director Dawn Parnell said.

“Just know that safety is always our priority,” Parnell said.

DG Montalvo, who has organized support for changing the name, said he has received thousands of messages. Some had kind words to share with him, others he said were threatening.

“I’m a little shocked and sad,” he said. “I’ve gotten hundreds and hundreds telling me I’m a racist and a bigot and a fool, I should go back to wherever we came from.”

Montalvo said he would not be deterred. He plans to show up Monday night and speak his conscience.

“I can’t do otherwise,” he said.

By early afternoon Friday, a change.org petition to keep the name had gathered 6,000 signatures.

Tyler ISD only recently had a federal desegregation order lifted.

The order dated back to 1970 and it required TISD to integrate and spelled out the details of how the district would do so. Lifting the order means the school district no longer has to report to the court as it related to the order and the district has the freedom to make decisions about its future without seeking the court’s permission.

The district’s demographics have changed considerably since the order was put in place. 

In the early 1970s, TISD served a student population that was 67 percent white and 32 percent black. Today, Tyler ISD’s student population is 46 percent Hispanic, 30 percent African American and 22 percent white. Lee has a minority population of more than 60 percent.

Twitter: @TMT_Cory

 

If you go

What: Tyler ISD board of trustees meeting

When: 7 p.m. Monday

Where: The Davidson Conference Center at the Jim Plyler Instructional Complex, 807 W. Glenwood Blvd.