Lee is renamed Tampa Heights Elementary School

TAMPA – Even the vote to rename Lee Elementary School – a treasured institution that weathered a devastating fire and a year-long relocation – did not happen without twists and turns.

Thursday‘s decision to call the school Tampa Heights Elementary followed almost an hour of discussion by the Hillsborough County School Board. The measure passed 3-2 with members Melissa Snively and Lynn Gray dissenting.

Snively and Gray said the community was not given enough time to consider options. Gray said she was not invited to any town hall meetings where the issue might have been discussed, even though she had asked to be kept in the loop.

But Tamara Shamburger, whose voting district includes the school at 305 E Columbus Drive, said the community embraced the new name. And she received backing from several speakers, including prominent activist Lena Young Green, who said, "Tampa Heights is in our blood."

Shamburger, who asked for Thursday‘s special meeting and argued for the renaming long before the September 2017 fire, came prepared to head off any argument that the school should continue to honor Confederate General Robert E. Lee.

Originally known as the Michigan Avenue Grammar School, Lee took its second name in the 1940s, which Shamburger described as "an era of white resistance to equality."

She told the board and audience that "for anyone to assert that changing this name is erasing history or some sort of revisionist history is laughable and delusional at best."

Gray and Snively, while not disagreeing with Shamburger‘s position, suggested that the board had not been true to its naming process, and that it had rushed the decision without adequate public input. Gray said the immediate Tampa Heights community was not the only one that should have weighed in, as the magnet school draws from the entire county.

Board attorney Jim Porter, however, assured the members that the district had followed the policy correctly. A town hall meeting was not required, district leaders said, pointing out that other schools are named and renamed without such meetings.

Shamburger made the case that now is the best time to make the decision, with the district embarking on a full reconstruction of the school.

"I‘m asking this board to finally heal this community, respect this community, and let‘s move this forward," she said.

In between the public comments and the discussion, the board had to take care of some other business: Approving several principal transfers. In doing so, they made Jarrod Haneline the new principal of Jackson Elementary, a school in Plant City that is named for another Confederate warrior, Stonewall Jackson.

When asked if he could appreciate the irony, Haneline said, "Oh, I know. We are going to be talking about that as we look to reshape that whole school.”

Marlene Sokol at or . Follow on Twitter.