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ACPS wins awards for renaming Naomi L. Brooks Elementary and Alexandria City High School

Students unveil the Alexandria City High School marquee, June 23, 2021. (staff photo by James Cullum)

It was criticized by many for taking too long, but now Alexandria City Public Schools is winning awards for the renaming of Alexandria City High School and Naomi L. Brooks Elementary School.

On Friday (May 5), ACPS announced that it was awarded the Silver Prize in the National School Boards Association Magna Awards program for The Identity Project campaign, as well as a 2021 Gold Medallion Award from the National School Public Relations Association.

“We are excited that the ACPS Identity Project has been honored with a Magna Award,”  School Board Chair Meagan Alderton said in a statement. “This recognizes the contributions from our students, families, staff and community who came together to work on this historic change. With student voices at the center, we mobilized to educate our community about the past and to chart an inclusive path for the future. We now have school names that are reflective of the values of Alexandria City Public Schools.”

Alexandria City High School is the largest high school in Virginia. The school was previously named T.C. Williams High School for 50 years, and became known around the world for the 2000 movie Remember the Titans, which is the story of the 1971 state championship-winning varsity football team that found greatness by working through racial adversity.

T.C. was named after segregationist Thomas Chambliss Williams, who was the superintendent of ACPS for 30 years. Williams worked against the integration of schools, and required Black students who wanted admission to previously all-white schools go through an application process. Only 75 Black students (about 3%) were allowed to transfer to formerly white schools by the time Williams announced his retirement in 1962, and that was three years after the city officially desegregated schools.

The new name of Naomi L. Brooks Elementary School is unveiled by students on June 22, 2021. (staff photo by James Cullum)

Naomi L. Brooks Elementary was previously named Matthew Maury Elementary School for nearly a century, after the Confederate leader and oceanographer. Brooks was a beloved teacher for 25 years at Charles Houston Elementary School and Cora Kelly Elementary School.

It took more than a year to solicit name proposals from the community and for the School Board to whittle them down to replace the names of T.C. Williams High School and Matthew Maury Elementary School. The schools were officially renamed last summer, putting an end to an issue that residents tried to address for decades.

The project was deemed so successful that Superintendent Gregory Hutchings, Jr. highlighted it in a book he recently co-wrote with Georgetown University professor Douglas Reed: “Getting Into Good Trouble at School: A Guide to Building an Anti-racist School System.

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