After six months of battle, debate and public outcries, a panel at Sir Francis Drake Excessive College in San Anselmo has voted to vary the college’s identify.
“I acknowledge the seriousness of this second — and in addition the chance and the hope that now we have now,” faculty principal Liz Seabury mentioned Thursday evening after the Drake Management Council voted 13 to 2, with one abstention, in favor of the identify change.
The advice comes amid a motion to vary the college’s identify to take away any reference to the 16th century English explorer with ties to slave buying and selling.
Opponents within the “No Title Change for Sir Francis Drake Excessive College” Fb web page weren’t impressed with the panel’s resolution.
“It has been rigged from the very starting,” wrote Dan Orr, an alum of the college who additionally spoke throughout public remark on the 2 1/2-hour assembly Thursday. “Since when do workers get to determine the identify of the corporate they work for. The taxpayers ought to in a common election.”
At the very least 35 different feedback in the same vein had been posted as of Friday morning.
Seabury mentioned the college council, made up of academics, mother and father, college students and employees, will take a look at choices for a brand new identify at their subsequent assembly Dec. 10. Greater than 300 options have been submitted.
The group will submit suggestions for a brand new identify to Tara Taupier, superintendent of the Tamalpais Union Excessive College District, for presentation to the board of trustees. The trustees may have the ultimate vote on a brand new identify.
Opponents of the identify change have contended that though Drake, an English explorer who landed on the Marin coast in 1579, participated in two slave buying and selling voyages early in his profession, he later turned his life round and have become a supporter and liberator for slaves and Indigenous individuals.
For them, Drake is extra an emblem of redemption than of racism or White supremacy and colonialism — because the identify change proponents have contended.
“Moderately than altering the identify and eradicating an emblem, I’d encourage you to rent extra academics of colour,” Scott Chapman, an alum and identify change opponent, mentioned Thursday. “That may do extra to foster inclusion.”
Simon Holt, an 11th-grader at the highschool, mentioned the proponents’ portrayal of Drake as “a rapist and a slave dealer” was incorrect, as a result of Drake modified his life and “freed 5,000 slaves,” he mentioned.
“Drake’s story is one in all redemption,” he advised the college panel Thursday. “This course of is unfair to Sir Francis Drake and has tarnished his identify.”
However Jasper Thelin, a Drake instructor and college alum, mentioned that whereas he shares the opponents’ nostalgic attachments to the identify, the important thing level is how the identify impacts college students and the tradition on the faculty.
“I need to transfer apart the arguments about his historical past, and preserve it student-centric,” Thelin mentioned Thursday. “If we let this second go, the youngsters will probably be discovering that their voice doesn’t matter. That will probably be a disgrace.”
Alumna Maya Hausamman agreed.
“Symbols matter,” she mentioned. “Altering the identify received’t be sufficient to eradicate racism, however will nonetheless present a dedication” to constructing an anti-racist setting.
However Christine Stewart, a 1965 Drake graduate, disagreed.
“I perceive why college students need the college be extra inclusive,” she mentioned. “However I don’t see how altering the identify will assist that.”
Craig Dahl, a 1972 graduate, mentioned he felt it was a “waste of cash” to vary the identify. Officers have estimated it could price about $430,000 to get new athletic uniforms, repaint indicators and athletic fields and get new letterhead, electronic mail addresses and a brand new fitness center ground.
“As an alternative you must take that cash and attain out to varsities that need assistance, like in Richmond or the Canal space (of San Rafael), or colleges that had been destroyed by fires, like in Paradise,” he mentioned. “Don’t squander cash on wasted symbolism.”
Officers had mentioned all cash for the identify change would come from personal grants or donations. No faculty funds or tax cash can be used, they mentioned.
College students at Drake, which additionally has been briefly known as “Excessive College 1327” throughout the identify change course of, had been combined on the problem.
In line with a random survey of 28 White college students and 14 Black, Indigenous or individuals of colour — additionally known as BIPOC — 42% of the White college students and 64% of the BIPOC college students had been in opposition to the identify change.
“I feel extra concerning the tradition of the college, not of the identify of an individual,” mentioned sophomore Kennedy Williams, one in all two members of the Drake Management Council who voted no. “The identify change is a performative motion, and isn’t essential. We’re already transferring ahead and rising as a group.”
Senior Ella Acker, the council moderator and president of the college’s Related Scholar Physique, additionally voted no for the identify change. She mentioned that she and her fellow BIPOC college students have agreed the identify change itself was not as necessary as optimistic strikes towards extra inclusion.
“We perceive the group wants to have the ability to take an motion step, however we don’t consider the identify change essentially solves racism,” she mentioned. “On the finish of the day, it comes all the way down to willingness to take actions.”
The latter would possibly embody, she mentioned, adjustments in curriculum, extra translation to Spanish language and extra dialogue of present occasions.
Opponents on the Fb web page pointed to the scholars’ ambivalence as proof that Drake academics and employees had been pushing the thought via. A survey of 117 academics and employees members discovered virtually 80% in favor of fixing the identify.
“The racism BIPOC college students take care of ought to have been the very best precedence,” mentioned alumna Dani Citti, who additionally spoke throughout public remark Thursday. “They need to have labored on that drawback first. For me, there isn’t any query that the identify change is performative solely.”
For Seabury, nonetheless, when she found Sir Francis Drake’s historical past — though he was a household hero from her childhood — she discovered his identify “offensive,” she mentioned.
“Youngsters have advised me they’re in ache,” she mentioned. “As a White girl and a principal, my duty is to ensure that each child loves their expertise right here.”
The motion to vary the identify developed earlier this yr amid the nationwide anti-racism and social justice activism triggered by the demise of George Floyd in police custody in Minneapolis on Might 25. The identify change was mentioned in early summer season at a board of trustees assembly at Tamalpais Union Excessive College District, which administers the San Anselmo highschool.
On the assembly, it was acknowledged that the district guidelines name for the choice on whether or not to vary the identify to be made by the Drake Management Council. At that time, the college council was not scheduled to satisfy till Sept. 9.
Vandals lined up the Drake indicators on the faculty in July. District administration subsequently referred to as for all of the Drake indicators to be taken down, citing issues of safety.
College students and employees then started utilizing the momentary identify Excessive College 1327 — a reference to the college’s deal with at 1327 Sir Francis Drake Blvd. Opponents criticized the signal removing, saying it confirmed the identify change was “a executed deal” and had already been determined with out public enter.
In September, Seabury and the newly constituted Drake Management Council, started an intensive public outreach course of. They held a collection of boards, entertained scores of public feedback and listened to shows from group teams.
Nonetheless, some group members mentioned they thought the entire resolution ought to be delay till COVID-19 was resolved. As a result of pandemic, college students at Drake and the opposite excessive colleges within the district are at the moment in 100% distant studying. They’re planning to return to in-person instruction in a hybrid mode on Jan. 6.
“I feel the timing is reckless,” mentioned Eileen McCarthy, including she was impartial on whether or not to vary the identify. “It’s a pandemic — 100% of our time and assets ought to be spent on getting college students again to high school.”
Drake employees member Lisa Neumaier, who was the only council member to abstain, mentioned she additionally was uncomfortable with the timing.
“I don’t really feel the necessity to rush,” mentioned Neumaier, a college alumna. “This has brought on a lot nervousness, it’s actually difficult. The toughest factor has been how divided everyone seems to be. It’s actually careworn me out.”
Neumaier mentioned she would by no means lose her fond reminiscences of attending the highschool as a scholar.
“I’m a Drake pirate,” she mentioned, referring to the college mascot. “You’ll by no means take that away from me.”