A school in Jackson, Mississippi is undergoing a major change. It is dropping their long standing school name in favor of one that celebrates recent history. Davis International Baccalaureate Elementary School in Jackson was named decades ago for Jefferson Davis, the first and only president of the Confederate States of America. Now the school will receive a new name that celebrates the first African American president of the United States of America , Barack Obama.
The renaming of Davis International Baccalaureate Elementary School, along with two other schools in the district, has been a topic of conversation for quite awhile. The school is 98% African American and the district as a whole is 96% African American, it just didn't seem right that all three schools kept their Confederate names, considering the history.
As far as the renaming goes, it was a three week process to narrow it down to choosing the Barack Obama name. Students in each class, from kindergarten through fifth grade, conducted research and presented it at a school assembly. Fourth- and fifth-graders oversaw an election with students, teachers and staff casting paper ballots at school. Parents could vote on campus or by absentee ballot.
Janelle Jefferson, the PTA president, announced the planned change at a school board meeting Tuesday. "The students had overwhelming support for President Obama," Jefferson told The Associated Press on Wednesday. "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.
Jed Oppenheim, a school board member, said people have been asking for years why three schools in a majority African-American district are still named for Confederate figures. In mid-September, the board authorized the PTA at each of the three schools to set new names.
The two other schools in the district are George Elementary, named for James Zachariah George who signed Mississippi's secession ordinance and drafted the state constitution that denied voting rights to black citizens, and Lee Elementary, named for Confederate Gen. Robert E. Lee. Both schools will also receive a name change, but no name has been approved for them yet.
As for the now Obama International Baccalaureate Elementary School, it is a magnet school meaning that students must test highly to be admitted. State rankings released Tuesday show it was the top academic performer of all elementary and middle schools in Mississippi for 2016-17. Truly something the students should be proud of.