Davis International Baccalaureate (IB) Elementary School in Jackson, Mississippi, a predominantly black school and one of the top ranked schools in the state, has chosen to rename itself. Currently, it is named after Jefferson Davis, who was the President of the Confederate States from 1861 to 1865. At the start of the 2018-19 school year, it will be renamed to honor former President Barack Obama.
In August, the school began talks to change its name. "The school community wanted to rename the campus to reflect a person who fully represents ideals and public stances consistent with what we want our children to believe about themselves," said PTA president Janelle Jefferson.
Staff and students at the elementary school underwent a three-week long democratic process of suggesting new names for the school. Students from kindergarten all the way through fifth grade did research and worked on presentations for the school assembly where they would present their name change suggestions. Fourth and fifth graders helped oversee the elections alongside teachers and other staff as everyone, including parents, cast paper ballots. "The students had overwhelming support for President Obama," Jefferson told The Associated Press. After a vote by school stakeholders on October 5, the name change to honor Barack Obama was approved.
"We wanted to be very inclusive and transparent in the process to be fair, to make sure everybody felt like they had a voice," Jefferson said.
"Jefferson Davis, although infamous in his own right, would probably not be too happy about a diverse school promoting the education of the very individuals he fought to be enslaved named after him," Jefferson told the board of trustees. According to the New York Times, about 98 percent of the students enrolled at the school are black.
"I wholeheartedly agree with the name," Board President Camille Simms said at a recent meeting. Jed Oppenheim, another member of the school board, called it a “powerful initiative.”
Representatives of the school do not seem to be worried about the financial cost involved with the name change. Jefferson has already stated that the PTA will do "some very aggressive fundraising campaigns" to help cover the cost of changing signs, stationery, and other items.