PLANT CITY — Last month, a majority on the Hillsborough County School Board said it was time to remove Confederate hero Robert E. Lee's name from an urban elementary school.
"This is about doing the right thing," said chairwoman Tamara Shamburger, who led the charge to rename the school Tampa Heights Elementary.
But Lee was not the only Hillsborough school named after a Confederate general.
Twenty-five miles east, Plant City has an elementary school named for Thomas “Stonewall” Jackson, a Confederate hero and slave owner almost as well known as Lee.
Will it also be renamed?
Not just yet. Given the school's other pressing issues, which include two consecutive “D” grades from the state, Shamburger said recently, "I don't foresee us going down that road."
The two situations, although similar, illustrate the contrasting dynamics in Hillsborough's diverse communities.
Tampa Heights, whose building suffered a devastating fire in 2017, has a population that is two-thirds African-American.
Neighboring residents and former students were moved to action after the murders in 2015 of nine people during a prayer service at the Emanuel African Methodist Episcopal Church in downtown Charleston, S.C.
They were part of a national trend. The NAACP declared that "to become a nation united and free from inequity and bigotry — we must remove Confederate symbols from the parks, schools, streets, counties, and military bases that define America’s landscape and culture."
A survey of school names, published in Education Week, showed there were 80 schools throughout the South that had been named for Lee and about a dozen for Jackson or Confederate President Jefferson Davis.
Plant City's Stonewall Jackson school was built in 1963, a time in history when Southern communities were resisting federal moves toward racial equity.
Today Jackson serves a student body of 517 that is 26 percent African-American and 50 percent Hispanic.
On the night the board chose Tampa Heights to replace the Lee name, the Jackson school — by sheer coincidence — got a new principal, Jarrod Haneline. When questioned about the name, Haneline said it was among numerous things he is contemplating as he works to improve the school.
But, by all indications, there is no rush to do so.
Because of its low student test scores, Jackson is among 50 “Achievement” schools that are working to improve academic performance.
"Currently Principal Haneline is hyper-focused on his 90-day entry plan and building community with Team Jackson," Chief of Schools Harrison Peters wrote in response to questions from the Tampa Bay Times. "So far, there has been no request from the Jackson community or the Board with regards to a name change."
Shamburger made it clear to the Times that, personally, she does not think any school should be named for a Confederate leader, or someone who supported slavery.
But, she said, “in order for there to be a change, there must be an appetite from the community.”
Contact Marlene Sokol at [email protected] or (813) 226-3356. Follow @marlenesokol.