The School Board’s school renaming talks continued Tuesday with Mercer Middle School and Frances Hazel Reid Elementary School at the heart of the discussion.
The school renaming process started in June 2020 after the School Board started a discussion on an action plan to combat systemic racism. The plan included a review of all division facility names, with 10 schools being flagged for review.
Charles Fenton Mercer was an Aldie businessman who served in the U.S. House of Representatives. His name was flagged because of his support for the colonization of free Blacks in Liberia and for being a slave owner, according to History Matters LLC. Reid was a 73-year employee of the Loudoun Times-Mirror, starting as a secretary and retiring as associate publisher. Her name was flagged because of her association with the Daughters of the Confederacy.
The school division in December held community meetings to gather input on the names.
Jeff Morse (Dulles) said the meeting for Mercer Middle was not well attended but noted there were people of all ages and ethnic groups among the 25-30 who were there. Morse said they had a discussion about the good and bad things Mercer did and said the consensus seemed to be that the dialogue needed to continue.
As part of that, he said an idea of a student debate was raised, allowing students to research and debate the topic themselves.
“The feeling was that that debate was more important than the name change, and I was surprised,” Morse said. “There was no support in the room to change the name of Mercer, but it was unanimous support that this information and this discussion needs to continue on to the benefit of the students.”
Morse said he was also reviewing the information but said he looked forward to having more discussions on the topic.
John Beatty (Catoctin) said although there weren’t many in attendance the night of the Frances Hazel Reid meeting because of a snow day, he said most favored keeping the name. Beatty said he didn’t plan to support renaming the school.
Erika Ogedegbe (Leesburg) said she also attended the meeting and said it was unfortunate that attendance was low, saying outside of the School Board members and staff and principal there were three in attendance.
Ogedegbe said the discussion was “very interesting and fruitful” but she is still going through comments emailed to the division from October to December on the topic. She said there was interest in learning more about Reid’s writings throughout the course of her career, particularly if there were any further references to her participation in the Daughters of the Confederacy.
“We know that she was part of a group that had started a local chapiter in the early part of her life, but there was a recognition that it would be good to just know more about what was in her writings,” she said.
Ogedegbe said she understood the research was continuing.
In the fall of 2021, the School Board working with the Black History Committee, Friends of Thomas Balch Library got more help from History Matters LLC, who provided narratives on facilities within the division as well as recommendations for potential schools to be renamed. The School Board reviewed 10 names and the findings of the Black History Committee in June 2022 and again in Oct 2022.
In late October, John Champe High School, named for a Revolutionary War cavalryman, was removed from the list to allow for additional research to be done by the Black History Committee.
At the Oct. 25 School Board meeting, the board revised the school naming policy to include a section that allows the board to move forward with the recommendation to rename the nine schools. An amendment proposed by Ian Serotkin (Blue Ridge) permitted the committees to keep a school’s current name.
The review for Frances Hazel Reid Elementary School and Mercer Middle School will go from January through April.
The next group of schools, which consist of Belmont Ridge Middle School, Belmont Station Elementary School, Seldens Landing Elementary School, Sully Elementary School and Hutchison Farm Elementary School is slated to start in May and go through September. The final group, Ball’s Bluff Elementary School and Emerick Elementary School will start in September and go through December.
One question for the Leesburg school board member who is about to retire from serving. Why have you "never" made an effort to stop busing SMALL children out of the Leesburg low rent projects which are within walking distance to Frederick Douglas Elementary Schools? How contradictory is it to hear of ultra sensitivity to "NAMES" of schools when our smallest citizens are clearly still being discriminated against? If any school board member doesn't see that busing a small child unnecessarily away from their neighborhood school is discriminatory they should never run again in my opinion. Which other neighborhood in Loudoun would accept this happening to their child? Why doesn't this bother ALL OF US more than the name of a school? OK - change the names but PLEASE don't feel like you are honestly sensitive to the problem unless you fix the policy. I am REALLY tired of the signaling when actual improvements are being openly ignored! VOTE!
Maybe Mercer was on to something. People from all over the world have escaped cruel regimes and enslavement and have been very successful in America. But the Africans that were sold into slavery and brought to America just can't seem to be successful as a group. Of course are a lot of exceptions. But maybe they should have gone to Liberia, might have been successful.
The woke liberals don’t care about history, or the millions that would be required for these name changes. All they care about is promoting their political agenda. Leave our heroes alone.
Well, they ought to add Rock Ridge High School to the list. After all, that's the same name as the town in the movie "Blazing Saddles", and that movie is about as un-politically correct as you can get!
Frances Reid may well have been a member of Daughters of the Confederacy. She may have even been an organizer of the group, however, one must look at all of her accomplishments during her long life. She worked for one employer for 73 years, working her way up from a secretarial position to associate editor of what was the Loudoun County paper of record, a remarkable accomplishment for a woman of her time!
According to the Frances Hazel Reid Elementary School website, “Miss Fannie was director of the Loudoun County Historical Society, and a founding member of the Loudoun Business and Professional Women’s Club. In 1987, Miss Fannie published a book about the history of local newspapers titled, Inside Loudoun: The Way it Was. To many who worked with her at the newspaper, and in the community, Miss Fannie was known as “Loudoun’s living history.”
In the more than 25 years I worked with Miss Reid, I never once heard her utter a bad word about anyone, and I suspect that she knew the secrets of many of Loudoun's most prominent citizens. There was plenty she could have said! She was a woman beloved by many and a mentor to more than one woman.
Let's not throw the baby out with the bath water! Don't change the name of Frances Hazel Reid Elementary School.
I'm a newcomer, less than 20 years in LoCo and this is what happens when "do-gooders" have too much time of their hands. Next, all publications related to Ms. Reid will be banned if not burned. These are the same people who give me a load of grief because I like beef and should eat potatoes pure without butter or a beef sauce on them.
This whole thing is politics. It is ridiculous and a waste of time and money. Leesburg should be renamed..it's after Robert E Lee! OMG!
Imagine having so little meaning in your life, that this is what you spend your time doing -- digging up dead people to see if they meet your standards in 2023.
The old Name Hoax!
When it comes to wasting taxpayer money, LoCo government and schools do it better than anyone else. Without question.
I think any LCPS school's name that's associated with the Confederacy or Jim Crow should be removed. Truth be told, I'm not concerned whether the majority agrees. It's the right thing to do. Please don't study this issue to death, LCPS. Get moving!
Being a member of the Daughters of the Confederacy means zero. It literally means you can trace an ancestor back to the Civil War. Shoot, Ms. Reid's mother or grandmother may have signed her up when she was a little kid. Perhaps we should do like New York and just name the schools PS 1, PS 2 and so forth. LoCo is beginning to remind me of the House Un-American Activities Committee in the US House of Representatives. Anyone brought before the committee was assumed to be guilty of being a communist unless they could prove otherwise. The only way to get off the hook was to name someone else who might be a communist. I'll wager we could dig deep enough on the members of the BoS and possibly find things out that might be a bit unsavory.
We already had a taste of that with the "anti racism" FB kabal. Where you had elected officials, including school board, BoS and prosecutor compiling an enemies list of Loudouners. Dont agree with them? You're on the list. Say something they don't agree with? You're on the list.
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