The president of the San Francisco school board thinks it’s time to consider renaming schools that bear the names of slave owners — including Washington and his friends and fellow presidents Thomas Jefferson and James Monroe.
Board President Matt Haney said Tuesday he will introduce a resolution before the board this month to clarify the rules for renaming San Francisco schools with an eye to encouraging the communities at Washington High School, along with Jefferson and Monroe elementary schools, to consider whether they want to make a change.
“We need to have a conversation about this,” Haney said. “Especially at George Washington High School. We have school names in San Francisco that are not relevant or meaningful or inspire pride.”
Yes, Haney said, the name Washington — also shared by a state, the U.S. capital and a likeness on a dollar bill — might very well be such a name.
“I would not want to speak for the school community,” Haney said. “It’s a very tricky issue. I’m trying to stay away from condemning anyone. It was a very different time back then. But slavery was America’s original sin.”
Under Haney’s proposal, schools would be encouraged to form committees consisting of students, parents, teachers and administrators to study the issue. If the committee favored a name change, the school board would consider it. The board has the ultimate authority to change a school name.
Were Washington High to shed its name, Haney said, it might be a good idea to replace it with that of poet Maya Angelou, who attended Washington.