Stonewall Jackson High School will be renamed Unity Reed High School to honor Arthur Reed, a long-time security assistant at the school, and Stonewall Middle School will be renamed Unity Braxton Middle, to honor Celestine and Carroll Braxton, a local educator and her veteran husband.
The new names were approved unanimously by the Prince William County School Board at a special meeting Monday evening, less than a month after Superintendent Steve Walts first recommended renaming the schools.
More than 20 people suggested names during a public hearing before the school board’s vote, and that followed two meetings last week in which dozens of names were recommended.
According to an online petition in support of naming the high school after Reed, he was nicknamed the "Godfather of Stonewall" after he passed away. The high school is located just outside the city of Manassas.
Celestine Braxton was an educator in the school division for 33 years who died in 2014. Braxton started teaching before racial segregation was ruled unconstitutional. Her husband, Carroll Braxton, is a decorated veteran.
“This unity is possible because of remarkable and brave people like Celestine and Carroll Braxton,” said School Board member Jennifer Wall, who represents the Gainesville District, where the middle school is located.
A renaming committee of Wall, Chair Babur Lateef and school board members Adele Jackson of the Brentsville District and Lisa Zargarpur of Coles District recommended the new names.
“In the end, it felt like the best way to encompass how the community felt,” Jackson said about the new names.
School board members said unity is a theme that is inspiring.
“The Braxtons built and performed their lives with unity in mind clearly at all times, so I think this is great,” Lateef said.
School Board member Loree Williams said this is the time to rename schools.
“[Both schools] have lived in a limbo of knowing we’ll get to this point, but not knowing when; I think this will bring some closure to that community,” she said.
School Board member Lillie Jessie, who represents the Occoquan District, asked during the meeting how much the renaming process will cost the division. “I think the public needs to know the cost and how we’re coming up with the money.”
Walts said the division will find the necessary funding to rename the schools.
Diana Gulotta, the school division’s spokeswoman, said staff plans to replace signs at the two schools before the 2020-2021 school year.
The school board also voted to name the middle school's auditorium after John G. Miller, a principal at the school for 18 years who retired this year.
Dave Beavers, supervisor of planning and financial services for the school division's Office of Facilities Services, told the school board the school division received more than 775 suggestions for new names for the schools.
The school division said the top 10 most frequently suggested names, in alphabetical order, were:
Celestine and Carroll Braxton
Dr. Ibram X. Kendi
L. Douglas Wilder