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2020-07-12 Board President Addresses High School Name Changes, Calls Special Board of Trustees Meeting for Thursday

Tyler ISD Board of Trustees President Wade Washmon, with fellow trustees Artis Newsome and Andy Bergfeld in attendance, made a public statement Sunday afternoon regarding Board plans for discussing and addressing possible adjustments to the names of Robert E. Lee High School and John Tyler High School. As part of his statement, Mr. Washmon announced that he is calling for a special meeting of the Board of Trustees for Thursday, July 16, 6 p.m. with one agenda item: to discuss and take action on adjusting the names of both high schools. Mr. Washmon’s full statement is below.

“It is my hope that we can move forward, through, and from this issue in unison with a poised and rational demeanor so we can turn our focus back to successful student outcomes,” Mr. Washmon concluded.

As a reminder, due to COVID-19 and the Governor’s latest executive order, attendees at all upcoming Board meetings, are asked to adhere to the following health and safety protocols:

  • Masks or face coverings;
  • Health screenings, including temperature checks;
  • Guests will maintain social distancing; and
  • Limited room capacity.

Speakers who wish to address the Board during the Public Comment section of the meeting are required to sign in. Speakers will be called in the order in which they signed up, and will be allowed in one at a time so health protocols can be followed.

Thursday’s special board meeting will air live on TISD-TV Suddenlink Channel 19, TylerISD.org, and the Tyler ISD YouTube channel at https://www.youtube.com/tisdtv.

All media who plan to attend are asked to contact Tyler ISD Executive Director of Communications Jennifer Hines by 10 a.m. Thursday, July 16.


Statement by Tyler ISD Board of Trustees President Wade Washmon on July 12, 2020

As you all know, we have had a busy last five months of dealing with COVID-19 and the impact and restrictions it has had on our ability to take care of the educational, social, and emotional needs of our students in order to create successful student outcomes.

Now, on top of that and handling our daily lives that include work, kids, taking care of family, etc., we’ve had the unique opportunity as part of our “volunteer job” as trustees, to sit and listen to our community about an issue that has once again surfaced, as it did in the not too distant past.

The names of our high schools, gifted to us by a prior generation, have been the source of much debate and consternation in our beloved community, and candidly have become an increasingly bigger stumbling block to our focus as a school district on successful students outcomes; and our efforts toward unity as a city.

Since our last board meeting, individual members have been meeting with, listening to, and getting feedback from the community on this issue. The meetings have been comprised of groups of citizens and trusted individuals therein who represent a true cross-section of town; and we have heard the opinions and concerns of the community.

Therefore, with much prayer and consideration, it is my intention to address this issue head on, with a board that is courageous enough to take action, and with the support of numerous local leaders and legends such as Earl Campbell, the Tyler Rose, Heisman Trophy winner, NFL great, successful business man, and probably the most notable graduate of John Tyler High School; and Kevin Eltife, former mayor of Tyler, Texas, State Senator, Chairman of the Board of Regents for the University of Texas System, and fellow Robert E. Lee High School graduate. 

These are just two on a very long list of local leaders who have voiced their support of addressing this issue.

I’m also joined in support by board members Andy Bergfeld and Artis Newsome. Between the three of us we represent portions of North, Central, and South Tyler.

This afternoon we’ll be calling for and posting notice of a special meeting of the board of trustees of Tyler ISD, with one agenda item: to discuss and take action on adjusting the names of both of our flagship high schools, Robert E. Lee and John Tyler.

This meeting will be held Thursday evening and board members will have a chance to share their thoughts on this issue at that time.

Objectivity is a word that must permeate our thought processes and decisions as a school board. If we consider one, we must consider both.

Although Robert E. Lee High School has sparked the debate, and garnered much attention, if we apply the same set of criteria used to justify the consideration of changing it, we must also objectively apply the same criteria to John Tyler, who never contributed on a local level, but did contribute and serve on the congress of the confederacy, whose troops were commanded by Robert E. Lee.

Let me be very clear to my community. The decision to address both high schools has everything to do with objectivity and unity, which is why I’m requesting a vote on both schools at the same time. Should a vote to change the names occur, we’ll then address the process of re-naming.

Educating children in today’s environment is tough enough as it is. We have COVID-19 issues to navigate and impending budget cuts due to the depletion of revenue sources, not to mention several other societal issues that daily impact our ability to educate our children. In my opinion, it’s wise to eliminate hurdles where you can in order to more adequately serve our kids and community.  

It’s my hope that we can move forward, through, and from this issue in unison with a poised and rational demeanor, so we can turn our focus back to Successful Student Outcomes.

Thank you,

Wade Washmon
President, Tyler ISD Board of Trustees