The Alexandria School Board last night reversed its decision to rename the George Washington School for two black educators, provoking bitter accusations from several blacks at an emotional board meeting.
The decision, made Feb. 21, to assign the name Parker-Gray to the building that once was Alexandria's only high school drew a storm of protest from graduates at a meeting last month and in calls and letters to board members since. Some alumni argued that Washington's name should be perpetuated in a city that calls itself the first president's home town.
In addition to deciding to restore the original name, the board voted 7 to 2 to postpone until June a decision on what to do with the name Parker-Gray, which many blacks want kept on a high school.
But at last night's meeting, several blacks insisted they did not want George Washington renamed for the black educators.
Elsie C. Taylor, a graduate of the city's former high school for blacks, which was named Parker-Gray, recalled getting old editions of textbooks, old band uniforms and old musical instruments from George Washington, which was then the high school for whites. Now, she said, the city is trying to give the black community an old building.
"Thanks, but no thanks," she declared to applause, " We fought to get our original high school built. I see no reason why our school should be taken from us."
Parker-Gray High was named for John F. Parker and Sarah H. Gray, who were principals of the all-black boys' and girls' schools in the city after the Civil War.
Phyllis C. Kate, President of the Parker-Gray Alumni Association, said she wants to see the name continued "on a school, on an important school."
She proposed renaming T. C. Williams, now the city's only high school, Parker-Gray. Williams High is named for a former Alexandria school superintendent. George Washington has been a middle school for several years.
Renaming T. C. Williams was one of several solutions proposed last night to solve the board's dilemma, but it and the others failed on 7-to-2 votes, with board members Michael Mulroney and Wilfred J. Smith in the minority.
In discussing the proposal to delay a decision, Smith said there are more pressing issues, such as curriculum changes, that have to be resolved, and that the debate over the school name is holding up those decisions.
Those who favored putting off the decision, such as Shirley N. Tyler, board vice chairman, said she did not "want to make another silly move" until she had more feedback from the community.
Commenting on the board's action later, several blacks were clearly angry.
"The board responded to one interest group and apparently did't listen to us," said Lawrence Robinson, president of the Departmental progressive Club, the oldest black club in Alexandria.
He said the decision was a disservice to the black community and that the two-month delay in deciding the issue would open wounds in the community.
Herbert Spears, a 1947 graduate of Parker-Gray, said he thought the board was dragging out the decision, hoping it would go away. "It definitely not going to go away," he said.
"They're doing away with everything of our heritage and our history," he said, referring to the closing down of three schools in the black community in recent years as a result of consolidation.
Following the school naming discussion, most of the audience of about 175 left, despite an invitation to stay from Board Chairman Alison May, who said she would like to see such a large turnout present for discussion of other matters scheduled to come up, such as curriculum.