Alexandria, VA

With the Alexandria School Board approving changing the names of two Alexandria schools, the question is what to call the school formerly known as T.C. Williams High School?

Several alternatives have been raised in online forums and in meetings. Some have suggested other local figures that could replace Thomas Chambliss Williams, including longtime former principal John Porter or Petey Jones, a member of the 1971 championship team and an employee at the school who died last year.

The specter of the 1971 championship and the 2000 Disney film Remember the Titans hangs over much of the renaming discussion, with one of the more popular replacement names being Boone-Yoast High School in honor of coaches Herman Boone and Bill Yoast — though others are equally quick to note that movies somewhat exaggerated Boone’s role in integrating the school.

Some have suggested keeping the iconic initials T.C. in the name as a way of both distancing from the original honoring of Williams while celebrating what the high school has come to stand for, though the solution is a halfway measure that could face further pushback from those who advocated for erasing T.C. Williams from the school’s name.

Rather than naming a school after a person, the school could also revert to a more generic name, like Alexandria High School, to avoid future debate or name changes.

Photo via ACPS/Facebook

5 Comments

After a unanimous vote at the Alexandria School Board meeting last night, the names T.C. Williams High School and Matthew Maury Elementary School were voted out — with the replacements still to be decided.

Over the next few months, the School Board will seek public feedback before settling on a new pair of names. The new names will be chosen by the Board in the spring and go into effect at the beginning of the 2021-2022 school year.

“I’m excited for this moment,” said Superintendent Gregory Hutchings, who recently threw his name in among supporters of the change. “It’s finally here. On behalf of our students: this is a historic moment for everybody. For many years people have been trying to have the name of T.C. Williams in particular changed… I want to commend the Board for allowing us to be able toe explore and get information from our community.”

T.C. Williams High School is the biggest public high school in Virginia, and is named after former ACPS Superintendent Thomas Chambliss Williams, who was an avowed segregationist. Matthew Maury Elementary School is named after an oceanographer and Confederate leader.

While efforts to rename T.C. Williams High School began in the 1990s, a renewed push this year was tied in with nationwide discussions about renaming honors to the Confederacy and other symbols of racial oppression.

“We can’t change history, but we can change what history we choose to honor,” said School Board member Michelle Rief. “The names were selected not because of their accomplishments, but as declarations of our community values in 1929 and in 1962. We have an opportunity to right that wrong.”

While the School Board members unanimously supported, others acknowledged that the symbolic change is far from the end of the discussion about eliminating vestiges of racism in the school infrastructure.

“T.C. and Maury no longer reflect who we are as a society, at least in Alexandria,” School Board member Heather Thornton said. “This is a symbolic step. Changing the name of T.C. is not going to do anything to eliminate systemic racism and barriers. It’s not going to solve anything. I hope people stay engaged and know this is a first step, but there are many things we need to have community engaged on.”

Thornton also pointed to disproportionality in suspension rates and graduation rates as lingering reminders of inequality in Alexandria City Public Schools, topics discussed later in the meeting.

“We can change the name all we want,” Thornton said, “but if we don’t change foundational issues I don’t think we will really achieve what we’re hoping to achieve as a school division.”

0 Comments

Heading into a School Board vote on Nov. 23, Superintendent Gregory Hutchings had thrown his support in with those supporting changing the names of T.C. Williams High School and Matthew Maury Elementary School.

Hutchings explained his support for the name change in an opinion piece in Tes, an educator trade magazine.

“Inexplicably, it has taken until today, 55 years since the school opened, to see a committed renaming process that may finally remove him and his legacy from the only public high school in Alexandria, a small but influential Virginia city in the shadow of Washington, D.C.” Hutchings wrote.

The announcement comes after a presentation on Monday by The Identity Project, an initiative formed by ACPS to examine the issue. The project gathered community feedback from students, faculty and alumni, which found that 75% of responders agreed with changing the name.

T.C. Williams High School is named after Thomas Chambliss Williams, a superintendent who fought against integrating schools. Matthew Maury Elementary School is named after Confederate leader and oceanographer Matthew Maury.

“On Nov. 23, 2020, the School Board will vote on whether or not to change the names of T.C. Williams High School and Matthew Maury Elementary School.,” ACPS said in a newsletter. “This comes after the start of The Identity Project, an extensive community discussion, which culminated in a presentation to the School Board (PDF) this past Monday, Nov. 16. In this presentation, Superintendent Dr. Hutchings presented his recommendation for the School Board to approve changing the names of both schools.”

In his essay, Hutchings references petitions that circulated around Alexandria earlier this year to get the name changed.

“In August, when I was informed that a petition with the requisite number of 100 signatures from anyone in the Alexandria community to begin the conversation had been submitted, I remember thinking this was our carpe diem moment,” Hutchings wrote. “Soon after, a second petition was submitted to change the name of one of our division’s elementary schools named after Matthew Maury, an oceanographer who also happened to be a Confederate who lobbied for the Confederacy in Europe, attempted to negotiate a slave trade with Brazil, and encouraged those with like-minded beliefs to migrate to Mexico following the civil war.”

Hutchings also recognized complaints from members of the community that things weren’t moving quickly enough.

“In the weeks and days that followed those submissions, there was frustration in our highly diverse school community — which comprises families from 120 countries speaking 121 languages — that things were not moving quickly enough,” Hutchings said. “But from where I stood, there was much work to be done to ensure a transparent, thorough and fair public engagement process.”

Hutchings didn’t include a recommendation for what the new name would be, a process likely to follow in early 2021 if the name change is approved.

“Later this month, the school board will vote on whether to change those two school names,” Hutchings said. “Among the suggestions circulating as alternatives are Boone-Yoast High School, named after coach Hermon Boone and assistant coach Bill Yoast from that famous ’71 football team, and Nolan Dawkins High School after the first African American judge in our city’s history. Other suggestions have included simply Alexandria High School.”

Both Boone-Yoast and Nolan Dawkins could generate their own controversies, with Boone’s role in the integration of T.C. Williams agreed to be somewhat exaggerated and Dawkins facing some public pushback earlier this year after it was revealed that the suspect in a murder had been out on bond approved by Dawkins.

Image via ACPS

3 Comments

After weeks of speculation, ACPS announced today that the school’s winter sports season would be cancelled.

The cancellation will include this year’s boys basketball, girls basketball, wrestling, indoor track, gymnastics, ice hockey and swim and dive competitions.

“After consulting with the Alexandria Health Department (AHD), ACPS has decided not to participate in the Gunston District scheduled games or any Virginia High School League (VHSL) Championship events this winter,” ACPS said in a newsletter. “See the Recommendations/Guidance on Sports and Activities (PDF) from Dr. Stephen Haering, AHD Director.”

ACPS leadership had previously said any sports that could not maintain ten feet distance would likely be eliminated.

“ACPS is aware that this decision differs from VHSL Return to Play guidelines, which do not require athletes to compete with face coverings when within six feet of others,” ACPS said. “However, we believe the need to continue to comply with CDC guidelines for anyone on school property or in our buildings is a priority. We have a shared responsibility to ensure we are limiting the spread of the coronavirus and need to focus our energies and staff time on returning students to the classroom when feasible.”

Football is still possible next year given that the fall seasons sports were pushed back to February or March 2021

2 Comment

Alexandria’s course toward social justice might be long, but hope remains for a better future. That’s the message behind the Alexandria Choral Society’s (ACS) Refuge project, and if all goes as planned the five-movement piece will be performed live next May by members of the T.C. Williams High School choir.

“There’s a lot of mileage that you have to go on that journey for a better future,” Refuge composer Jonathan Kolm told ALXnow. “There’s an uplifting arc of hope, but one that is tempered by difficult circumstances that we find ourselves in.”

ACS Artistic Director Brian J. Isaac said that the piece has been labeled a “crowdsource commission,” because portions of the texts that will be sung by the choir have been chosen by the ACS members and fans in Zoom chats. The texts from the fifth movement will be chosen next month.

“Right now, we plan to present this live in May,” Isaac said. “But if it’s not safe to do so, we will likely release a portion of this and maybe a teaser of one movement or a portion of one movement in a virtual format, and then perform the entirety of this work with T.C. Williams as soon as we possibly can.”

A portion of ticket revenue from the concert will be donated to a social justice charity in Alexandria.

The first four movements will include the following texts:

Photo via Alexandria Choral Society/Facebook

2 Comment

Morning Notes

The Loop Opens in Old Town — “The Loop at 215 (located at 215 N. Payne St. in Old Town) is finally open now. The mission is to help companies and individuals ‘work better, be better, and do better.’ The co-working space has a mixture of serviced private offices and open flex workspaces.” [Alexandria Living Magazine]

Three ACPS Students are National Merit Scholar Finalists — “Earlier this month, the T.C. Williams High School seniors discovered they had all been named National Merit Scholarship semi finalists after outstanding results in the PSAT/National Merit Scholarship Qualifying Test last October.” [ACPS]

Alexandria Voters Make Eclectic Write-In Choices — “But let’s be honest, you’re reading this to read about the weird votes. Kanye West was the most electable representative of the world of entertainment for Alexandria, receiving 17 votes for President (including one impressively misspelled as ‘Kanye Wert’) and one for Senate. Dwayne ‘The Rock’ Johnson received three votes, and Sterling, Virginia’s own Patton Oswalt received one vote for President, as did ‘Babe the Pig.'” [Washingtonian]

2 Comment

There will be no high school sports this year in Alexandria unless they can adhere to 10-foot distancing as recommended by the Centers for Disease Control and Prevention, according to Alexandria City Public Schools Superintendent Gregory Hutchings, Jr.

As of Friday, ACPS was determining which sports will be allowed in the school system, and a decision is expected to be released in ACPS Express on Monday.

With case counts rising in Northern Virginia, Alexandria has 180.7 cases of COVID-19 per 100,000 people within the last 14 days, according to the Dr. Stephen Haering, director of the Alexandria Health Department. That means that residents are at a high risk of infection.

Haering told Hutchings and the Virtual Plus Learning Advisory Team on Wednesday (Nov. 11) that Virginia High School League requirements allowing fall and winter high school sports to continue do not meet CDC guidelines, particularly athletes not distancing or having to wear masks while competing.

“If it’s an outdoor track event where people are staying 10 feet apart, I believe that would be okay,” Haering said. “As long as you don’t have spectators.”

VHSL released guidelines for public schools to return to sports last month, and they include no handshakes between teams, cheerleaders must be distanced and the first row of bleachers must be empty.

Hutchings said that he has “very serious concerns” regarding sports, and that VHSL guidance is contradictory since sports like wrestling are permitted without face masks.

“Even with trying to keep the 10 feet guidelines that have been recommended by the CDC, that is going to limit the number of winter sports that are available, so I am going to follow the guidance that you have provided,” Hutchings told Haering at the meeting. “If there are any winter sports that can afford us to be 10 feet apart and to follow those guidelines, then of course we will adhere to that and we will be able to participate in those particular sports.”

Hutchings acknowledged that he will likely get emails and calls from the community on his decision.

“What I’m trying to do is make sure we are following those CDC guidelines and adhering to them at all times and not when we think it’s convenient,” Hutchings said.

As previously reported, T.C. Williams High School has been gearing up for cheerleading and basketball to start on Dec. 7, followed by winter sports (indoor track, wrestling and swimming) on Dec. 14. The VHSL schedule for public schools also has football games set for February and spring sports (soccer, tennis, baseball, softball, outdoor track and lacrosse) beginning in April.

0 Comments

Two years after the city council approved the addition to stadium lights as part of the renovation of Parker-Gray Stadium at T.C. Williams High School, lawsuits have been settled with 15 Alexandria homeowners to allow the installation to happen.

“This is a historic settlement that ends decades of dispute relating to our City’s only high school,” Mayor Justin Wilson wrote on social media. “I am pleased that we will be able to move forward together as a community to support our students and our residents.”

Circuit Court Judge Thomas Horne approved the agreement between the homeowners, the Alexandria School Board and the city. It resolves four outstanding lawsuits against the city after ACPS allegedly made a verbal contract with homeowners that it would never light the field, after the land on which T.C. Williams High School was taken by eminent domain in the 1960s.

“I am delighted that our students will now have access to the modern facilities that will promote school spirit and enhance their social and athletic experience,”said ACPS Superintendent Gregory C. Hutchings, Jr. “This is a momentous day and I now look forward to moving on and focusing our attention on supporting our students in achieving the successes they have come to expect both on and off the field.”

According to ACPS:

  • The lights can be used for 50 game nights (which may include one or two games per night) per academic year, plus any postseason games. That limit does not apply to situations where lights are turned on during the day or afternoon for rain, overcast or fog
  • Lighted games can go as late as 9:45 p.m. on weekdays (Monday through Thursday) and 10:15 p.m. on weekends (Friday and Saturday). There are to be no lights on Sundays. Lights must be turned off within 15 minutes of the end of the game
  • Lights can be used for ACPS in-season athletic team practices to 7:45 p.m. every day except Sunday. Teams have previously scrambled for lighted practice space elsewhere in the city during the fall and early spring
  • Amplified sound is permitted only for varsity games, and limited to the current residential maximum under the Alexandria City code
  • Only ACPS athletic teams will have access to use the lights
  • A multi-step administrative dispute resolution process has been set up for any disagreements which occur with respect to compliance with the legal agreement or certain DSUP conditions
  • The term of the agreement is 40 years
2 Comments

The families of former football coaches Herman Boone and Bill Yoast want T.C. Williams High School to be renamed Boone-Yoast High School.

T.C. Williams High School is known around the world for the 2000 movie Remember the Titans, which focused on its 1971 state championship-winning varsity football team that found greatness by working through racial adversity. Coach Boone and his assistant coach Yoast remained best friends throughout their lives and continued coaching and teaching at T.C. for decades.

Boone’s daughter Sharon Henderson spoke on behalf of both families.

“Now, we all know that the blockbuster movie ‘Remember the Titans’ put T.C. Williams High School in many households around the country, while it forever carved our fathers’ names in the history books of the world,” Henderson said. “But I wanted to be known that these two men did things far greater for the community of Alexandria than what was portrayed in that movie. You see, both men share the history of being relentless advocates for students toward social justice and equality. Because of their determination to make a difference many young people benefited from their leadership on and off the football field, and today are hugely successful in their own lives.”

Henderson made the comments in a public hearing with the School Board on whether it should vote to rename T.C. Williams High School and Matthew Maury Elementary School.

“It will certainly be one of the greatest honors that the legacies of both men could receive from the city that they both loved so much. I believe it would also communicate the city’s commitment to inclusion for all of the extremely diverse student and community demographics of Alexandria, Virginia,” Henderson said.

The Board did not comment during the public hearing, and only received public testimony. Superintendent Gregory Hutchings, Jr. will present a report with recommendations with new names to the School Board in the spring of 2021, according to ACPS.

Thomas Chambliss Williams was the superintendent of ACPS for 30 years. He required that all Black students wanting admission to previously all-white schools to 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.

Matthew Maury was the first Superintendent of the U.S. Naval Observatory and the first hydrographer of the U.S. Navy. He was also special agent for the Confederacy during the Civil War and has a statue in Richmond.

As previously reported, Williams required that all Black students wanting admission to previously all-white schools to 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. Williams was also investigated by the U.S. Department of Justice for firing Blois Hundley, a cook at Lyles Crouch Elementary School. Hundley joined the lawsuit seeking to desegregate ACPS, and Williams was “outraged” when he found out about her participation.

Michele Chapman, a 1974 graduate of T.C., is the mother of City Councilman John Taylor Chapman, and her three siblings also graduated from Alexandria’s only high school. She said that T.C. Williams was not the kind of man that children should emulate.

“It is never too late to right a wrong,” said Chapman. “I want to thank you for affording us the opportunity to express our feelings to, to remind you that we as a community should never reward bad behavior.”

Photo via Living Legends of Alexandria

2 Comment

The deadline is 11:59 p.m. next Wednesday (October 28) for the community to weigh in on a survey on whether Alexandria City Public Schools should change the names of T.C. Williams High School and Matthew Maury Elementary School.

The survey is part of the renaming process for both schools, and the school board will officially vote next month on whether to change the names.

Thomas Chambliss Williams was the superintendent of ACPS for 30 years. He required that all Black students wanting admission to previously all-white schools to 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.

Maury was the first Superintendent of the U.S. Naval Observatory and the first hydrographer of the U.S. Navy. He was also special agent for the Confederacy during the Civil War and has a statue in Richmond.

According to ACPS, “One of the ways that we can move forward is by acknowledging our own history, while refusing to allow that history to define who we currently are as a school division in the present.”

The short survey asks whether respondents “strongly agree, agree, disagree, or strongly disagree” on having a good understanding of Williams and Maury, and whether they agree on a name change. The survey also asks for your zip code and relation to ACPS, whether as a student, staffer, parent or community partner.

0 Comments

Right now, Alexandria high schools are coordinating how sports are going to work for teams of students who are champing at the bit to get back into their respective games.

“We have a plan,” Jim Harris, the T.C. Williams High School coordinator of student activities, said in a recent Zoom call with the Alexandria Sportsmen’s Club. “We’re just waiting for approval to get on the field and actually start conditioning.”

T.C. Williams High School is gearing up for cheerleading and basketball to start on December 7, followed by winter sports (indoor track, wrestling and swimming) starting on December 14. The Virginia High School League schedule for public schools also has football games set for February and spring sports (soccer, tennis, baseball, softball, outdoor track and lacrosse) will start in April.

Harris said that students will self-report on a student medical database, and that coaches immediately get that spreadsheet.

Bishop Ireton High School is offering a hybrid model that allows in-person instruction. Student athletes aren’t competing, but they’re working out on campus with coaches and teammates.

“I think our parents are more happy than anything because they got happy kids that are coming home tired, they have kids who are emotionally and mentally happy to be physically doing things,” Dwayne Bryant, the BI athletic director and boys varsity basketball coach.

St. Stephen’s and St. Agnes School has a staggered schedule bringing kids back into classrooms. The school and broke up its athletic season into three five-week sessions and just wrapped up fall sports. They are and are now in their second five week session with winter sports.

“We decided that we would take things slow,” said Jeff Walrich, the SSSAS athletic director for the boys. “We’ve brought kids back onto campus to do some training and to be with their coaches. The kids have been missing is that relationship. So, while they’re training, our focus has been Monday team bonding with their peers and also with their coaches, which is a huge deal.”

Bryant said the latest approval by the NCAA allowing all college athletes to play an extra year presents problems for his students.

“A lot of these seniors, normally at this time would be getting prepared to do their signing celebrations in November, are now scrambling to actually find schools, or even get a chance to be seen,” Bryant said. “We were fortunate enough out there with 10 girls from my lacrosse team that have actually committed to play college next year. And with football being put on hold, a lot of those guys… are working hard trying to put together whatever film they can, but it’s pretty difficult.”

0 Comments

Morning Notes

City Recommends Staying Home for the Holidays — “The safest way to enjoy the holidays while COVID-19 remains in the community is to find ways to celebrate at home… For everyone’s safety, the CDC recommends quarantining for 14 days following all travel.” [City of Alexandria]

Voter Registration Deadline is Approaching — “There’s currently no line to vote at the Office of Voter Registration and Elections (132 N. Royal St.)! This option is available to all registered voters in Alexandria through Oct. 31. For days, times, other locations, and other voting options, visit alexandriava.gov/1720.” [Twitter]

Beyer Criticizes Trump for Not Wearing Face Mask — “Trump won’t say when he last tested negative for COVID-19. He won’t say if he is testing negative now. He’s about to start traveling across the country, holding huge rallies. #SuperSpreaderInChief” [Twitter]

Foundation Fitness Moves to New Location in Del Ray — “Attention!!! We have a new neighbor and we are pumped about it! Foundation Fitness has moved on down the road to a new UPGRADED space at 1901B Mount Vernon Ave. Go check it out tomorrow at their grand re-opening from 1-3pm! Don’t miss out on raffles, refreshments and special discounts!” [Facebook]

ACPS Hosts Third Community Read-In on T.C. Williams High School History — “Tune in to learn the real story behind “Remember the Titans” — riots, protests, systemic injustice, and a civil rights crisis in Alexandria, alongside the merger of our black and white high schools, our integration plan, and a winning football team.” [Facebook]

Watch: Fire Department Holds Virtual Wreath Laying Ceremony — “The Alexandria Fire Department, Ivy Hill Cemetery Historical Preservation Society and the Friendship Veterans Fire Association host the 50th Annual Ivy Hill Memorial Service and Wreath Laying Ceremony to honor the men and women of the Alexandria Fire Department who have died in the line of duty and members who have passed in the last 12 months.” [Youtube]

COVID-19 U.S. Honor Quilt on Display at Del Ray Artisans — “Help build HOPE by creating your own 10.5″x 10.5″ panel to add to HOPE sign and to be joined to the quilt. Free panel squares and information pamphlets are available in the entryway of the gallery. All media is fine. No sewing required. The art panels will be copied onto vinyl for display.” [Facebook]

Naomi Wadler’s Scarf is in the Smithsonian’s ‘Girlhood’ Exhibit — “The “two-movie scarf” became Naomi Wadler’s signature, and Naomi wore it during her history-making moment when the then fifth grader exploded on the national scene during the March 24, 2018 March for Our Lives event in Washington, D.C.” [Zebra]

Today’s Weather — “Areas of patchy fog early. Considerable clouds early. Some decrease in clouds later in the day. High 72F. Winds NW at 10 to 20 mph. A mostly clear sky (in the evening). Low 49F. Winds NW at 10 to 15 mph.” [Weather.com]

New Job: Customer Experience Manager — “Responsible for leading Front End Operations.” [Indeed]

5 Comments
×

Subscribe to our mailing list