Sidney Lanier Early College High School will be renamed, despite the efforts of District 3 trustee Ann Teich and some students and alumni to drop “Sidney” from the North Austin school’s official name instead of undergoing a full name change.
Austin ISD trustees voted March 25 to rename the school after Juan P. Navarro, a U.S. Army sergeant and Lanier alumnus who died in 2012. Teich presented the name after her previous motion to drop “Sidney” from the name failed in a 4-4 vote.
“In just a few days, Sgt. Juan Navarro, a alumni of Lanier High School and the Rundberg community, would have celebrated his 30th birthday,” said Manuel Munoz, a former friend and neighbor of Navarro. “Unfortunately he is no longer with us. Austin ISD has an opportunity to honor one of its own graduates.”
According to Teich, Navarro’s name was nominated by the community in 2012 as a possible name for the now Guerrero Thompson Elementary School. However, based on naming criteria set by the district, Navarro was not eligible back in 2012 because he had died during the last calendar year.
Lanier becomes the fourth school to be renamed since February 2018 due to ties the school’s namesakes had to the Confederacy. The board voted in 2018 to rename Fulmore Middle School after retired teacher Sarah Beth Lively and to rename the John T. Allan Facility after former Principal Anita Ferrales Coy. Last month, John H. Reagan High School was renamed Northeast Early College High School.
While other name changes will be in effect for the 2019-20 school year, district staff said logistics for the change to Juan Navarro Early College High School have not been worked out.
Some residents spoke during public comment March 25 in support of changing the school’s name, while others asked the board to keep Lanier while removing the school’s namesake.
“Keeping this relic of our racist past continues to normalize white supremacy here in the present,” Laura May, who has worked at Lanier for 13 years, said during public comment.
While she supported the name change, May also said students and staff at the school had not been given an opportunity to learn about the name’s history or to have true conversations about racism and white supremacy. She and other residents said educating students about the history of those names changed should have been part of the process.
“I know our students and staff still have not received a campus presentation, workshop, lesson, nothing comprehensive about the true history about why the name was chosen for this campus,” she said.
Roxanne Evans, a member of the East Austin Coalition for Quality Education, said that name changes are the first steps in creating equity for students of color in the district.
“Let’s not pay homage to white supremacy any longer,” she said. “Change the name, which is relatively easy, and let’s have the more difficult conversations about changing the outcomes for students of color in this district.”
Vincent Tovar was one of two community members in attendance who spoke against the board’s action to change the school name. He said he represents many who viewed removing “Sidney” from the school’s name as a symbolic gesture that also maintains the community’s pride.