By Curt Yeomans
The Clayton County Board of Education unanimously approved an ad hoc committee's recommendation to name the county's ninth high school in honor of a pioneer in blood transfusions.
The new high school, which was previously called "High School No. 9," will now be known as Charles R. Drew High School. Drew is known for helping develop a method of separating blood cells from plasma, which led to the development of blood banks in the United States.
The new high school, which is located behind Southern Regional Medical Center in Riverdale, will have a health occupation focus.
The school board had to make an emergency change to the district's policy Monday on the naming of schools before approving Drew as the new high school's name. Previously, the policy said high schools could only be named for the communities they served, while elementary and middle schools could be named for people who were deceased.
Five of the county's other eight high schools are named for the cities they are located in, and the other three are named for their region, local community, or because of stipulations in the deed for the land the school sits on.
Board member Jessie Goree argued it was unfair to prohibit the board from naming high schools after people. "We allow the elementary and middle schools to be named after people, but we won't allow the high schools to be named in the same way," Goree said.
School system General Counsel Julie Lewis pointed out to the board Monday that many of the nearly 100 names suggested by community members were names of people. She said this meant the board should interpret the feedback to mean the community wanted the school named after a person, not a region.
When the board took a vote on changing the naming policy, it was not unanimous. The board voted 7-2 to change the policy, with board members Pamela Adamson and Michael King casting the dissenting votes.
Adamson said she voted against the policy change because the board normally puts a policy revision on the table for 30 days to give the public an opportunity to offer input, which was not done in this case.
"If we take this action, we deviate from the path we normally take," Adamson said. "We got lots of recommendations, and I just think it would not be wise to do that [change the policy] without getting public input."
Board Chairperson Alieka Anderson argued the policy had to be changed in an abnormal manner because the lack of a name was holding up progress at the school. Anderson pointed out the school should have been named in August, and that the purchase of lettering, a marquee and athletic uniforms has been delayed because it did not have a name.
District spokesman Charles White said a ConnectED telephone survey was scheduled to go out to homes of students living within Drew High School's attendance boundaries Wednesday night so youths could vote on the new school's mascot. Among the options were the Wolverines, Spartans and Titans.
Results of the mascot vote are expected to be compiled today, White said.