School of change

Published 2:57 pm Tuesday, July 28, 2015

The Port Arthur Independent School District has an important decision to make that could impact the future of PAISD for years to come. Hopefully our newly elected school board that has yet to show the change our community elected them to be, will not disappoint.
While we should be paying attention to the progress PAISD is making in regards to the school bond that was passed last November, the hot topic over the past month has been the call to rename both Robert E. Lee Elementary and Dick Dowling Elementary. The reason, in short: these names are tied to individuals that have a bad history with African American citizens.
I do not have a problem with the renaming of these schools if that is the will of the community. The school district is a part of our community, and receives funds through taxes that we pay. So again, I do not have a problem with renaming these schools if that is what the majority of the community wants.
But there are two items that need to be brought up within this discussion.
1. How do we go about renaming them if that is the outcome?
2. How this change could affect other nationalities if handled improperly?
The individual, Greg Richard, who is pushing this “call for change” has supplied PAISD with a list of names that he would support the use of. This list is comprised completely of African American heroes and advocates, which in its own right is not an issue either. A number of them would be great elementary school names. But if we want to be fair here, for the future of our students and our school district, we need to look at the bigger picture. Young people of Hispanic heritage make up 45.7 percent of students in PAISD, 44 percent are from African American heritage, and the remaining 10.3 percent includes everybody else.
It is my understanding that the League of United Latin American Citizens (LULAC) is watching very closely how PAISD will handle this issue. Where it might seem that the naming of an elementary school is a minor thing, how it is handled could indeed have long-term effects if handled incorrectly.
When the majority of students from a specific nationality are not considered during this process, PAISD will be confronted about other issues that outweigh in comparison to a renaming. Those issues include treatment of students, class structures and expectations, just to name a few. This list could go on and on. But honestly, anything that is perceived to be unjust could become the next issue.
If the naming of these elementary schools is indeed the will of the community and not just a man on his own mission with his own political agenda, then maybe we need to look at more common names that might stem directly from the communities they reside in. For example, Port Acres Elementary can replace Dick Dowling Elementary or something like that! What may look like a simple task definitely is not. Good Luck PAISD, everyone IS watching.
Rich Macke is publisher of The Port Arthur News. Contact him at

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