Grady Forever? Committee recommends name change

WHAT%27S+NEXT%3F%3A+The+Henry+W.+Grady+Renaming+Committee+has+voted+to+move+forward+with+finding+a+new+namesake+for+Grady+High+after+a+month+of+virtual+meetings+with+public+commentary.

Sophia Maxim

WHAT'S NEXT?: The Henry W. Grady Renaming Committee has voted to move forward with finding a new namesake for Grady High after a month of virtual meetings with public commentary.

Elena Hubert and Dana Richie

After a month of fielding public comments, the Henry W. Grady Renaming Committee came to a consensus to recommend a name other than Henry W. Grady to the Atlanta school board.

In order to encourage more student input and community discourse about possible names, the renaming committee slowed the renaming process by moving the next decision-making meeting to Sept. 15, where they will come forward with a list of name recommendations.

Initially, the renaming committee was scheduled to recommend a list of three possible names to the board at the Aug. 13 meeting. Committee member and Council of Intown Neighborhoods and Schools representative Janet Kinard suggested the extended deadline.

“The original timeline had making a decision [set for] next week, and I felt that the first portion of the time for the committee had really been more focused on whether we should change the name or not.” Kinard said. “I really felt like the community needed more time for consideration, and certainly, the students needed more time for providing a voice for what a name recommendation should be.”

Parent Tamara Jones supports the idea of slowing down the renaming process in order to facilitate meaningful community dialogue. 

“I support a name change, but I do not support the division and resentment I see unwittingly being stoked by this public input process,” Jones said in a public comment. “I ask the committee to consider modifying it so that the current students, alumni and community can actually interact with one another and come to a conclusion that is healing and inclusive rather than divisive.”

Renaming committee members Jay Hammond, 2020 graduate, and Assistant Principal Carrie MacBrien are currently working as representatives of the school to facilitate efforts for students to give input on potential names during the extended time period. Meanwhile, senior Hollis Fluker has been mobilizing students to show up and participate in the public comment section at renaming committee meetings.

“As a student, I felt it was my responsibility to actively communicate and share information regarding the name change, so that our voices would be heard,” Fluker said. “Creating an informative guide on how to submit public comment for the committee’s live session was beneficial to all of us… In addition to the guide, I sent out constant reminders to the [senior] class, posted updates and links to Google Forms and surveys.”

While some are worried that the online format of meetings would affect the outcome, Board Chairman Jason Esteves assured viewers during the Aug. 13 meeting the differences between in-person and virtual meetings were minimal.

“The conversation around having a platform where people can have more meaningful discussions, whether that was in person or virtual, it would have looked very similar,” Esteves said. “If it was in person, we would have had people in meetings voicing the same exact opinions.” 

Community stakeholders are optimistic that the discussions will lead to finding more common ground while also helping the renaming committee provide a name recommendation that encompasses the spirit of the Grady community. 

“When dealing with a momentous decision such as changing a school’s name, you will naturally have conversations between current students and alumni ranging from agreement to disagreement,” Fluker said. “I cannot speak for all; I am sure there are numerous students and alums willing to give their input.”

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