TYLER — A hotly contested issue continues to dominate the conversation among several members of the community: changing the name of Robert E. Lee High School.
It all started with two petitions in August of 2017, after the deadly clashes in Charlottesville, Virginia.
The first, a push to make sure the confederate war general’s name was preserved.
That was followed by a movement to get rid of Robert E. Lee who many associate with one of the darkest time in our nation’s history.
In Tyler, Robert E. Lee High School was established in 1958, and until 1972, flew a Confederate flag, known to be one of the largest in the world.
Their mascot until the early 1970s was a Rebel, but have since changed to the Red Raiders.
Regardless of those changes, the controversy has surfaced again in recent years and the Tyler community and district school board have continued the discussion.
In September 2017, several people took part in a public forum during the school board meeting.
They all approached the podium, some with thoughts of renaming the school, others said leave the school name as is.
Board members were faced with the question 'what's next?' A vote wasn't made but board members spoke out on what they thought about it.
At the start of 2018, Tyler ISD agreed to request a report of what a school name change for both Robert E. Lee and John Tyler High Schools would cost.
Months later, in May, the district reviewed that cost analysis of how much it would cost to change the names of its high schools.
A public comment section was not included in that meeting's agenda.
Three days later, the board reviewed the analysis of costs associated with a possible name change for Robert E. Lee and John Tyler High Schools, but the item was for discussion only; no action was taken.
Several board members questioned if a name change was worth sacrificing goodwill with the community.
Later that same month, district trustee Rev. Orenthia Mason asked that the agenda item to change the name of the high schools be removed from an upcoming school board meeting, in a move that shook many members of the community.
The school board, then did remove that agenda item.
However, that did not stop members of the community from continuing the conversation.
Former councilman Darryl Bowdre met with other African American and Hispanic community leaders, on May 21, 2018 at SouthCentral Church of Christ to discuss the issue.
Bowdre said he, along with many other community leaders, is not happy about the decision to take that item off the district's agenda.
John Franzen said the estimated $1,000,000 per campus to rename them did not add up.
At a previous meeting, the school board said it would cost between $1.2 million and $1.6 million per campus to rename them.
Franzen said he did not believe that's possible.
Even students later joined the conversation, meeting with community members including Tyler's NAACP president, Cedrick Granberry at a local church.
In early June 2018, it was discovered that the high school is moving forward with the revamping of their school uniforms regardless of whether or not the school would be renamed.
The Tyler Paper got records that indicated most of these uniforms already would be scheduled for replacement before renovation of the facilities is complete in 2021.
Uniform replacement was one of the common arguments used among those against the name change.
On June 7, 2018, almost 100 people gathered in Tyler to write postcards to TISD board members, pushing for the name change of Robert E. Lee High School.
Among the many pushing to change the high school's name, there were several against that movement.
A group called "Save the Name" turned in a petition, urging board members to stand their ground about leaving the name change discussion alone.
Twp days later, Tyler ISD school board Vice President, Wade Washmon turned in a request for an agenda item to consider changing the name of Robert E. Lee HS to Lee HS.
The board president accepted Washmon's request and added another item to the agenda, a discussion of conversion costs involved with such a name change, should the board decide to go through with it.
The issue was scheduled for discussion on Monday, June 18, 2018.