Tysons, VA

The Fairfax County School Board is postponing its decision to rename Mosby Woods Elementary School to solicit more community engagement.

“We have not had the level of public participation that we had hoped for, and therefore, we are working with staff to come up additional options and to solicit additional community input,” Providence District School Board representative Karl Frisch said during the school board meeting last night (Thursday).

“More information about these two items will be announced as details are worked out with staff,” he said.

Frisch and at-large member Karen Keys-Gamarra proposed renaming Mosby Woods Elementary School on June 18 with the support of descendants of Mosby.

The school board voted on Oct. 8 to change the name so that it no longer recognizes John S. Mosby, a Confederate colonel who led a guerrilla campaign against Union supply and communications lines in Northern Virginia during the Civil War.

Fairfax County Public Schools Superintendent Scott Brabrand assembled a list of recommended names in October:

  • Mosaic – a nod to the school’s proximity to the Mosaic District
  • Five Oaks – the name of the road where the school is located
  • Katherine Johnson – a mathematician who helped make spaceflight and the Apollo 11 moon landing possible as a “computer” for NASA
  • Mary McBride – a teacher who helped start a school near Fairfax Court House for the children of freed slaves after the Civil War
  • Barbara Rose Johns – a student civil rights activist who led a strike in protest of conditions at the all-black Moton High School in Farmville, Va., paving the way for Brown v. Board of Education

Five Oaks currently has a slim lead in Tysons Reporter’s poll on the subject.

During a public hearing on Wednesday (Dec. 2), Mosby Woods teachers Nikki Hudson and Jenny Smith endorsed Mosaic.

“Every teacher on our staff, every enrolled student, all have colorful pieces within themselves that represent their nationalities, religions, heritage and beliefs, and so much more,” Hudson said. “These pieces come together to create an atmosphere that is conducive to acceptance and learning.”

Smith said that sixth-grade teachers had the opportunity to share the recommended names with all seven classes. Students “overwhelmingly” voted for Five Oaks and Mosaic, which received 56 and 74 votes, respectively.

While students said Five Oaks was “simple” and “sounds good,” their answers for Mosaic went deeper.

“They said things like, ‘We are all different cultures, and when we are all put together, we are a beautiful picture where we all belong,'” she said.

They were very concerned, however, about the mascot: “The mascot of mustangs is very important to these sixth graders,” Smith said. “Mosaic Mustangs seems to fit.”

Speaking for unionized Fairfax teachers, Fairfax County Federation of Teachers President Tina Williams recommended Barbara Rose Johns because of how “her dedication, perseverance and hard work contributed to the ruling of Brown v. Board of Education.”

“Unfortunately, racial segregation is still alive and present in Virginia,” she said. “A recent report found that racial segregation has gotten worse over the last 15 years, especially in Virginia metro areas, due to overt and covert racist policies.”

A few people suggested names not on the list, including civil rights icon Ruby Bridges and L. Douglas Wilder, the first African American governor in the country and the Commonwealth.

“He was a man who brought so much service and dedication to our Commonwealth and the country as a former war hero, governor and state senator,” student Teddy Geiss said.

Photo via FCPS

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