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CMS begins discussion on dropping Confederate officer’s name from Vance HS

CHARLOTTE — The Charlotte-Mecklenburg School Board believes it’s time for a change -- Monday, they began discussing how to go about renaming Zebulon B. Vance High School in University City.

The issue started out as an online petition but has gained traction with the board deciding to take up the issue.

It’s important to look back at who Zebulon B. Vance was and why the high school was named after him in the first place.

Vance practiced law in Charlotte, but he was well known for being a politician. He served as North Carolina’s governor and a U.S. senator in the 1800s.

Vance was memorialized in statues, and other schools across the state are named after him.

Vance is controversial because he was a Confederate military captain during the Civil War and he owned slaves. As a politician, he also argued against a bill that would end racial discrimination in schools, transportation and public accommodations.

Recently, a petition has been circulating to rename Vance High School and dozens of people have signed it.

The first step in the process is the principal of Vance High School will appoint an advisory committee to help come up with new names for the school.

The group has to follow guidelines from the CMS School Board:

  • It requires that they get input from community groups
  • The names should be easily identified
  • Have meaning to the community
  • There can’t be conflict with existing CMS names
  • Names can be based on geography or historical figures
  • A summary of research needs to go with each name on the list

The recommended names will be sent to the regional assistant superintendent and deputy superintendent. It will be up to the school board to make the final decision.

“I loved Vance. I love going to Vance. I loved my fellow classmates, the community,” said Demetrius Stafford, a recent graduate of Vance High School.

Though Stafford leaves behind fond memories, he's looking forward to seeing what the future holds for Zebulon B. Vance High School.

“I put some research in and I was like, ‘Well, that’s interesting. That’s an interesting choice.’ And then when I started going to Vance, I thought about it often because, like, Vance is vastly people of color,” Stafford told Channel 9. “Having it be named after someone who was a part of the war that was not entirely, but partially, about slavery, I always thought that was a strange irony.”

One of Stafford’s teachers, Daniel Vicario, said he hopes the name change is just a piece of what happens next.

“I’m really hoping for concrete action as well because beyond just the name Vance really epitomizes the segregation within CMS,” Vicario told Channel 9. “It’s a predominantly black and brown school in terms of student composition and it’s not representative of what our community looks like overall.”

“I’m glad that it’s happening, but it’s a shame that it took the current state of the world to happen,” Stafford added. “I hope it’s the first of many steps to improve Vance High School.”

The CMS board chair said the school community will have a voice in determining the new name, and they need to review the names of other school buildings as well and follow this symbolic change with action.

The UNC Board of Trustees also ended a 16-year freeze on renaming campus buildings.

Three years ago, the board voted to rename Saunders Hall on UNC Chapel Hill’s campus. William Saunders served as a colonel in the Civil War and also founded the Ku Klux Klan in the state.

The trustees called it “an error” that he was considered for the honor and renamed the hall. After that, a moratorium was set in place, sending a message that no other buildings could be renamed.

The board decided to end that moratorium.

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