School name controversy in Prince William County

- School board members in Prince William County got an earful from residents upset with a vote on a school naming proposal.

Earlier this month, the school board met to decide on the name of its newest elementary school. In the running was fallen firefighter Kyle Wilson and community leader Dr. George Hampton.

Both sides were passionate, and in the end, a compromise was made. The elementary school would be named after Wilson while an existing school, Godwin Middle School, would be renamed after Dr. Hampton – a long-time educator, community volunteer and philanthropist.

The board approved the joint proposal on March 2.

Board member David Wilk introduced that proposal, but it was not a happy ending for one person. A few days later, police confirmed he received a note with a racial slur wrapped in a Confederate flag.

Community members packed Wednesday’s regularly scheduled board meeting to voice opposition to Godwin Middle School being named after Hampton.

Michelle Powell, a fifth-year seventh grade social studies teacher at Godwin, was one of several speakers who spoke against its renaming. She said the public should have had the opportunity to give input before a name change.

“How can I justify to my students that this decision was just and right without any input from them and the community it impacts?” she said at the meeting. “The school, students and parents should be afforded the same rights as a new school would get per Prince William County’s school regulation.”

“This was a very unusual situation again where it arose as a result of a compromise,” said Prince William County Public Schools spokesperson Phil Kavits. “But the school board was really looking to do something right here. They were looking to honor our two individuals who certainly served out community and two individuals whose legacies will serve as inspiration for our future students.”

Neither Hampton nor his family attended the meeting, which was previously scheduled and primarily focused on the county's budget.

It appears an item to discuss the naming issue will be added to the next board meeting agenda in two weeks.

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