The Identity Project: Renaming Our Schools
ACPS Heralds a New Era, Working with Students and Community to Replace School Names From a Racist Past
The Alexandria City School Board last night voted to replace the names of two schools that were intrinsically linked to Alexandria’s racist past, selecting Alexandria City High School and Naomi L. Brooks Elementary School to replace T.C. Williams High School and Matthew Maury Elementary School. The nine School Board members were unanimous in adopting these names, following a recommendation from Alexandria City Public Schools (ACPS) Superintendent Dr. Gregory C. Hutchings, Jr. and a robust student and community engagement process known as The Identity Project which launched in July 2020. The new names will take effect on July 1, 2021.
“Our community came together for this historic decision to remove the long-standing names of two schools and replace them with new names that reflect the anti-racist values and mission of ACPS today,” said Meagan L. Alderton, School Board chair. “WIth a national spotlight on our society’s many inequities, the Board felt it was imperative to look at the morality of school names that do not fit with who we are today. It is a new era, and I especially want to thank the students, as well as staff and community members, who contributed to this process and are helping to ensure that our schools are inclusive and supportive learning environments for all.”
Speaking after the Board vote, Dr. Hutchings said, “We are excited about the Board’s decision to adopt the names of Alexandria City High School and Naomi L. Brooks Elementary School, which are names that honor the diverse, inclusive and anti-racist community that ACPS is striving to become. Our students were vital to the renaming process, and I appreciate the purpose and enthusiasm they brought to discussions about our history and potential school names. We will always be the Titans, and we are now Titans with a renewed energy as we continue our work to empower all students to thrive in a diverse and ever-changing world.”
ACPS proudly embraces students from more than 145 countries speaking 132 different languages, and its high school is internationally recognized, diverse, and situated at the heart of Alexandria’s education system with a current enrollment of approximately 4,000 students in grades 9-12. Racial equity is at the heart of the school division, as seen in the ACPS 2025 Strategic Plan: Equity for All.
Narrowing Down the Final Names
Through a robust community engagement process, the last set of community polls which ran Feb. 5 through Feb. 19, 2021, helped to narrow the names to three finalists for each school.
These polls revealed 14,947 entries from students, families, alumni, staff, and community members. Careful consideration in solidifying the top three names came from public support, suitability to the campus and student population and met the ACPS School Board policies.
Three Finalist Names for T.C. Williams High School
- Alexandria High School (34.20% from public poll)
- Titan Community High School (21.26% from public poll)
- Ruth Bader Ginsburg High School (10.13% from public poll)
Three Finalist Names for Matthew Maury Elementary School
- Naomi Brooks Elementary School (30.46% from public poll)
- Rosemont Park Elementary School (20.72% from public poll)
- Jean Reid Elementary School (9.36% from public poll)
After careful consideration and aligned with public input, Superintendent Dr. Gregory Hutchings, Jr. recommended the following names at the March 4, 2021, School Board meeting.
- T.C. Williams High School to be renamed Alexandria High School
- Matthew Maury Elementary School to be renamed Naomi Brooks Elementary School
The Board will vote on April 8, 2021, and the new names will be implemented on July 1, 2021.
The Process of Choosing a New Name
About The Identity Project
Many ACPS schools were named during a time in our city and our country when vastly different attitudes and beliefs guided our decisions. In 2020, a spotlight has shone on the many inequities in today's society, and a new determination to right the wrongs of history has swept the nation. To that end, the School Board answered a call to look again at the morality of naming our city's only high school after Thomas Chambliss Williams, a staunch segregationist whose views could not have been more inconsistent with the vibrant, diverse and inclusive place we know today. As that process began, questions were raised about the name of Matthew Maury Elementary School. Was it right to immortalize a commander of the Confederate Navy even though he was also a celebrated oceanographer and astronomer? And so began The Identity Project, a wide-reaching community conversation that allows all voices to be heard as we look toward a more equitable future in Alexandria.
Today, ACPS proudly embraces students from more than 145 countries speaking 132 different languages. Changing a school name is a symbolic step. However, the ultimate goal puts racial equity at the heart of every decision that is made, as seen in our division's 2025 Strategic Plan: Equity for All. School Board Student Representative Lorraine Johnson said, "We hope that this will be the start of further discussions around how we can change our systems from within." Cost estimates to implement the name change at T.C. Williams total about $325,000, while cost estimates for Matthew Maury are just over $5,000.