School board postpones renaming process for student vote


Elena Hubert

The Atlanta Board of Education voted to postpone the Grady High School renaming process in order to let students vote.

The Atlanta Board of Education voted to postpone the consideration of the Grady renaming process until the Dec. 7 board meeting so that current Grady students can complete an optional, confidential rank choice voting process with the names Midtown, Ida B. Wells, and Piedmont.

The name with the most votes from the students in this process will be the name recommended to the school board for a final vote. School board member and head of renaming committee Leslie Grant made this recommendation to empower student voices.

“We’ve heard from community members who believe that we have not sufficiently taken into account the student voice and while I do believe the process was a fair one, I believe that what we must do is ensure that our student voice is ultimately heard and elevated,” Grant said.

Many current students welcome the opportunity to vote and are glad that the school board decided to listen to the students.

“All I wanted was for them to postpone [the vote], and then decide based on a referendum of the students,” senior Lindsey Curtis said. “Whether they postponed it or voted no…either way I’m happy.”

Audrea Rease, Howard Middle School parent, and organizer of the petition, “Vote NO to Grady High School Renaming Committee’s Recommendation,” emphasized how important it is to communicate and inform students before they vote.

“I hope that this process of informing and engaging the students will meet them where they are,” Rease said. “So wherever they congregate online, where they like to spend their time, or if something should be sent out via text or email, or if it should be mentioned in certain classes or advisory periods, or whatever. I just hope that some real thought is given for how to engage, as broad [of] a cross section of the students as possible.”

Some people say they don’t take issue with the name Ida B. Wells, but rather the process by which that name was chosen and so they are pleased with the postponement, no matter the outcome.

“I don’t care as much as about the name as I care about putting it to a vote,” senior Nicolas Kamel said. “Yes, I think that it should be Midtown High School or Piedmont High School but, if the community ends up deciding Ida B. Wells, not committee members, that’ll be enough for me. That’ll make me happy.”

Many people’s main gripe with the original process was that it was not representative of the entire community. However, all other stakeholder groups besides students will be excluded from the vote.

Some people believe that teachers, who will be directly affected by the decision, should get a say in the name of their workplace.

“Teachers interact with students on a day to day basis, and are immersed within the culture of the school,” senior Henry Gelber said. “As they have a different perspective of the school, they should be able to contribute their own ideas to the discussion.”

Additionally, many alumni who participated in the process over the summer feel as though they have been overlooked since they are not included in the vote.

“Current students should weigh-in, but not pull the weight of the decision,” said Class of ‘82 alumna Julie Jarrard. “Alumni need to be considered more than current students.”

Kamel acknowledges that this change in the plan may seem frustrating for alumni who care about having their voices heard. He said that when he votes, he will take into consideration what the alumni would have wanted. But, Kamel ultimately believes that having a vote, even if it is just for students, is better than not.

Some students were concerned that the new process could undermine the progress that was made since the renaming committee was first established in March.

“At first I was disappointed with the decision because I felt the process had been very thorough and the board did their job,” senior Forest Dynes said. “But I can understand wanting more input from students.”

Other students are satisfied with the delayed process. They believe that the benefits of listening to student voices outweigh the postponement.

“We have over a semester and a half left to come up with a name that won’t even be put into place until next year,” senior Ava Young said. “I think a simple survey is really the best method.

With the delayed process, some community members support for middle schoolers to be included in the vote because they will live with the name after the current students graduate.

“Though the middle schoolers at Howard do not currently attend Grady, they represent Grady’s future and should be able to have a say in its name,” senior Henry Gelber said.

Sophomore Jasmine Trammel believes that this decision has the potential to either be alienating to constituent groups or will bring people together.

“I feel like that could go one of two ways,” Trammel said. “Either it could be very divisive and students won’t take it seriously because we as high schoolers are teenagers and sometimes big decisions like these should not be left up to us or it will cause a lot of unity for the student body because we all attend this school.”