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DCPS School Naming and Renaming Engagement

In summer 2020, Mayor Bowser formed the District of Columbia Facilities and Commemorative Expressions (DCFACES) Working Group. She charged the group with evaluating named DC government-owned facilities and making recommendations as to what, if any, actions need to be taken if the person the facility is named for is inconsistent with DC values and in some way encouraged the oppression of African Americans and other communities of color or contributed to our long history of systemic racism.

In the group’s executive summary[PDF], released in early September 2020, they recommend renaming 21 DCPS schools and school buildings, including Woodrow Wilson High School. While DCPS plans to carry out a process to explore renaming each of the 21, Wilson HS’s situation is unique in that there had already been ongoing public discussion about changing the name which has found broad support among stakeholders including current students and families, staff members, alumni, the Advisory Neighborhood Council (ANC), and the broader DC Community, Mayor Bowser has publicly expressed her belief that the name should change, and DC Council has introduced legislation to explore a change.

DCPS agrees with Mayor Bowser and others that the name of Wilson High School must change. Woodrow Wilson’s racist legacy and policies of segregation acutely carried out against Black federal employees in the District and Black residents of Reno City, where the school now sits, make him an unseemly namesake for the school and does not reflect DCPS values of Students First, Equity, Excellence, Teamwork, Courage and Joy.

The next steps to renaming this Ward 3 high school include a public process, detailed below, to solicit options for a new name. Names that come out of this process will be reviewed by DCPS and a final name will be selected by the Chancellor and Mayor. DC Council will need to change the name officially through legislation.

Steps

Timeline

Details

Online nominations for new school name

October 5 – October 30

The nomination form will be shared with school staff, students, families, alumni, community groups, citywide listservs, and via social media.

ANC 3E Meeting

October

DCPS representative(s) will join ANC3E to discuss name change process for Wilson, share nomination form, and answer questions.

Wilson Parent Teacher Student Organization (PTSO) Meeting

October

DCPS representative(s) to attend PTSO meeting to discuss name change process for Wilson, share nomination form, and answer questions.

Wilson Local School Advisory Team Meeting (LSAT)

October

DCPS representative(s) to attend LSAT meeting to discuss name change process for Wilson, share nomination form, and answer questions.

Conversation with Wilson SGA members

October

DCPS representative(s) to join Wilson SGA members to discuss name change process for Wilson, share nomination form, and answer questions.

Vetting of nominations

November 2 – November 13

DCPS will vet nominated names and decide on a short list to be published for final public input.

Online input on new school name finalists

November 19 – December 11

Public input form will be shared through the same channels as the nominations form (see above) and directly with individuals who submitted a nomination.

Decision on a new school name

December

DCPS and City leaders will consider public input and voting in determining a new name for the Ward 3 high school.

Any individuals for whom a DC Public School is to be named must meet the following criteria:

  1. The individual has made a significant contribution to society;
  2. The name would lend prestige and status to an institution of learning;
  3. The individual exemplifies DCPS’ mission, vision and values;
  4. The individual must not have enslaved other humans, supported the institution of slavery, furthered systemic racism, supported the oppression of persons of color and/or women, been a member of any supremacist organization, or committed any acts that violate the DC Human Rights Act;
  5. The individual must not be a living person or have been deceased for less than two (2) years, unless the deceased person was a President or Vice President of the United States, a United States Senator or Representative, a Mayor of the District of Columbia, or a member of the Council of the District of Columbia;
  6. The individual’s given name and surname must be used (ex: “Frank W. Ballou High School” rather than “Ballou High School”).

To provide your input on what the new name of DCPS’ Ward 3 High School should be, go to publicinput.com/dcpsward3hs.

Learn about previous DCPS school name change engagements: