Amarillo Independent School District trustees voted on Monday night to change the name of Robert E. Lee Elementary School to Lee Elementary School.
On Monday, members of the Amarillo ISD board of trustees voted 4-3 to drop "Robert E." from the school's name. Board president Jim Austin and trustees Scott Flow, Renee McCown and Cristy Cooper Wilkinson voted to approve the name change while trustees James Allen, John Betancourt and John Ben Blanchard voted against the name change.
The school was named for General Robert E. Lee, a Confederate commander. Lee served as commander of the Confederate Army of Northern Virginia from 1862 until 1863 and was eventually appointed general-in-chief of the Confederate forces in 1865.
Many Amarillo residents spoke to the board representing both sides of the equation. Some of those present implored the board to change the name and others called for leaving Robert E. Lee's name on the school.
Since the agenda item was announced, many options were offered as potential name changes for the school. Some residents called for naming the school after civic leader Matthew "Bones" Hooks, while others called for more geographical names. The most common change offered was to rename the school Park Hills Elementary, which was supported by officials from the Amarillo branch of the NAACP.
Prior to the vote, trustee John Betancourt cemented the fact that he supported removing Lee's name from the school as society grapples with the issue of prejudice.
"It is sad that we live in a day where the world is repeating the same attitudes, the same hate that we have struggled with for so long," Betancourt said. "I know what that name symbolizes. Even though we refer to it as Lee Elementary, everyone knows what that name represents."
In a statement, board president Jim Austin said that the community's engagement was key in the board's decision to amend the school's name.
“We appreciate the engagement from the community and all the remarks which have been made,” said School Board President Jim Austin. “We appreciate the time people have spent to come and talk with us.”
Prior to the vote, trustee James Allen also called for residents to become more involved with the school district to help prepare students for success beyond high school.
"This board...cannot handle the daunting task of preparing our students for success beyond high school without your help," Allen said. "You need to be involved in your schools because they are your schools."
The school's name change will take effect at the beginning of the 2018-2019 school year.