CHARLESTON, W.Va. — The institution previously known as Stonewall Jackson Middle School has a new name.
The Kanawha County Board of Education voted 3-2 on Thursday in favor of renaming the school West Side Middle School. The board’s vote came after the body decided last week to change the name honoring the former Confederate military leader and more than 6,500 submissions were entered into a survey regarding a replacement name.
“I feel that if we wait any longer that in the community, the division will increase over what it is to be named,” board member Tracy White said before the vote.
The school system earlier this week announced the five top community recommendations for the school’s new name, including Katherine Johnson Middle School, which would have honored the former NASA mathematician and West Virginia native. Multiple community members spoke before the vote about possible name ideas, including titles honoring Johnson and other Black West Virginians.
Black children make up 42% of West Side Middle School’s student population.
Tracy White and other board members criticized the nomination process, which was conducted online. She added the celebration of the board’s unanimous vote to rename the school ended once the suggestions were released on Tuesday.
“We went from such an accomplishment to now we are going to argue with each other,” she said.
Board member Ryan White said the board was acting prematurely in selecting a name, adding there should have been more efforts to choose a name West Side residents and students would support.
“I think the survey that we put forth was very flawed. It was not a survey. The way we said it was before was we were just looking for ideas for names, and that’s why it was OK for it to be flawed,” he said.
Board member Ric Cavender put forward a motion to rename the school Katherine Johnson West Side Middle School, which failed 3-2. Cavender and Ryan White voted against the final name, while President Becky Jordon, Tracy White and Jim Crawford supported the new title.