A predominately black public school in Mississippi named after Jefferson Davis will have its Confederate tied namesake stripped next year and replaced with the title of another president whose character students, parents and teachers have said is more fitting— Barack Obama.
Davis Magnet IB PTA President Janelle Jefferson announced at the Jackson Public Schools Board of Trustees meeting Tuesday evening that school stakeholders voted on Oct. 5 to rename the school Barack Obama Magnet IB.
“Jefferson Davis, although infamous in his own right, would probably not be too happy about a diverse school promoting the education of the very individuals he fought to keep enslaved being named after him,” she told the board.
A demographic breakdown of Davis Magnet’s enrollment for the 2017 school lists 98 percent of the school’s students as black.
Overall, JPS’ enrollment is 97 percent black.
Jefferson said the school community wanted to rename the campus “to reflect a person who fully represents ideals and public stances consistent with what we want our children to believe about themselves.”
“I wholeheartedly agree with the name,” said Board President Camille Simms.
The announcement brought a jovial mood to the room.
Attendees were aware of the possibility that Tuesday’s board meeting could be the last for the district in the long time. The state Board of Education requested in September for Gov. Phil Bryant to declare JPS in a state of emergency. That move would trigger a state takeover.
Bryant is expected to make a decision this week on whether to approve the board’s resolution.
His signature would result in the disbandment of the school board.
It was actually the possibility of being unable to meet again that spurred the board members at their Sept. 19 meeting to delegate their naming authority to PTA groups at three schools —Davis Magnet, George Elementary and Lee Elementary, named after Confederate leaders.
At the time, the board’s attorney Dorian Turner advised that it was unclear whether the board had the authority to abdicate its responsibility.
On Tuesday, she confirmed, however, that the name change would be able to take place for the 2018-19 school year.
There are still logistics to work out, and Jefferson said the school and other partners, such as corporate sponsors, are expected to raise costs for the actual name change.
Updates on renaming efforts for George Elementary and Lee Elementary were not immediately available.