After an hour of receiving primarily positive comments, the Clarke County Board of Education voted to change the names of two elementary schools.
Chase Street Elementary will become Johnnie Lay Burks Elementary, and Alps Road Elementary will be Bettye Henderson Holston Elementary. The two women were the first Black teachers joining the faculties of those white schools in 1966, after the landmark 1954 Supreme Court decision of Brown vs. Board of Education that desegregated public schools was finally put into practice.
Linda Davis and Heidi Hensley were the only board members to vote against the re-naming. Instituting the new names will cost an estimated $150,000 for each school.
Clarke Middle teacher Chris Woodward asked the board for some guidance on navigating a state law about “divisive concepts” and the teaching of history, particularly in regards to race. The law demands school districts deal harshly with teachers whose words may upset students and their parents, and it threatens to cut funding from districts that don’t mete out punishments deemed severe enough.
In other school news, Superintendent Robbie Hooker released a 100 Day Report that outlines what he has learned about the school district and the community since he arrived in early October. Trust in the school district has eroded in the last four years, and Hooker’s report offers suggestions for building it back—with parents, teachers, business leaders, community leaders and students—and for moving the district to excellence.
The takeaway may be the “strategic priorities.” These include:
• Stabilize CCSD around excellence in public education. One way for doing this is to, “Promote and support a positive work environment, climate, and culture with district office personnel present and supportive of the work being done in our buildings and classrooms.”
• Strengthen clear instructional standards and student learning. To accomplish this, CCSD will need to, “Address instructional time requiring technology. Clarify highest impact assessment practices.”
• Ensure a high-performing environment for all students, which means to, “Ensure that every student is reading at or above grade level in every grade.”
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