An Arts Magnet By Any Other Name

Over on her blog, former Dallas Area Rapid Transit board member Joyce Foreman directs our attention to the agenda for Thursday's meeting of the Dallas Independent School District board. Among the items on the agenda: a reopening of the August 25, 2005, discussion concerning proposed names for new and existing facilities at the Booker T. Washington High School for the Performing and Visual Arts, which recently reopened after a $55-million expansion and renovation.

Trustee Edwin Flores tells Unfair Park the special meeting (the board doesn't usually meet in July) was called in order to expedite the selection of architects who will oversee the building of new schools, as per the recent bond election. The intention, he says, is to get schools open by September 2010. "But if we miss this by as little as one month, we won't be able to get them open until 2011." He says he's not exactly sure why Arts Magnet has been tacked on to the agenda -- most likely, he figures, "something's wrong on the list, which we approved in May."

Update: After the jump, DISD Board of Trustees president Jack Lowe comments on the "heartburn" over the school's name and potential efforts to remedy it.

Now, the complex is still called the Booker T. Washington High School for the Performing and Visual Arts. But local philanthropist Nancy Lee Blackburn Hamon's $10-million donation to the school's redo has gotten her name on the side of the brand-new building off Flora Street. According to a document on the agenda for Thursday, that was discussed in August 2005.

Hamon got her name on the new complex, Flores says, because "$10 million will get you a lot of names." He laughs. "There were a bunch of people who have a bunch of money. It's an impressive list, and as a thank-you to them on behalf of the students who will attend the school, we put their names on buildings."

Which won't please Foreman, who insists the new building, which faces One Arts Plaza, is a step in the eradication of history, as the building's been known as Booker T. Washington since 1922. "It look like once again they have moved to remove the black history of Dallas," she writes. "What in the world are our school board members doing?"

Jack Lowe says the reason Arts Magnet was added to the agenda was to "clarify" the name of the school, which, he says, "is not changed."

"Now, we did get a very generous gift from the Hamons, and part of that involved naming that building the Hamon Arts Magnet," he tells Unfair Park. "But that's the name of one part of the complex."

As for how the board will "clarify" the name, he says the board will likely discuss adding "another sign to the building" that would include the name Booker T. Washington.

"I don't know exactly" what the board will do, he says. "But if someone had some confusion or heartburn, we'll clarify that."

Or, as Flores puts it: "A single student isn't going to get one more answer right on the TAKS if we put a name on something. If you focus on making sure the students are educated, they can name the bathrooms." --Robert Wilonsky