Henrico County VA

Board approves Quioccasin Middle School as Byrd’s new name

Vote ends lengthy process
APRIL 28, 9 P.M. – By a 3-0 vote (with one abstention and one absence), the Henrico County School Board Thursday night renamed Byrd Middle School for the region in which it's located.

The board voted in support of Tuckahoe District member Lisa Marshall's suggestion of Quioccasin Middle School, a name that she said reflects more than just the road on which the school sits.

"Quioccasin is more than just a location," Marshall said. "It's also the name of the community with a rich cultural heritage in the Tuckahoe District. I'm confident that our community will support the name Quioccasin with the same level that they have shown the school to this date."

Marshall, whose district contains the school, told her colleagues during a work session earlier Thursday evening that she would put forth the name Quioccasin Middle School after she was unable to choose a favorite from a group of other suggested names submitted by community members. Among them:

• Vandervall Middle (for the African American family that owned the land on which the school is located);

• Bosher Middle (for the former Henrico superintendent William Bosher, who died last year);

• Griffin Middle (for former Byrd resource officer Neil Griffin, who died in March of cancer);

• Burton Middle (for Byrd alum Alysia C. Burton, who died in the Sept. 11 attacks in 2001).

"After much reflection, I found I'm unable to pick from those names, because for me, doing so would be determining that one is more deserving than another," Marshall said.

Fairfield District board member Roscoe Cooper, who supported the Vandervall name, abstained from the vote.

"I feel that it should have been renamed Vandervall Middle School," he said.

Board chair Micky Ogburn of the Three Chopt District was absent from the meeting and therefore unable to cast a vote, but Vice Chair Bev Cocke (Brookland District) read a statement from Ogburn in which she expressed support for the Quioccasin name.

Marshall suggested that citizens who suggested naming the school for an individual should consider efforts to name sections of the school (such as an auditorium or playing field) for those individuals by contacting the school's administration and PTA.

A full-circle process
In one regard, the new name represents the conclusion of a lengthy full-circle process.

The original Quioccasin School, located across the street from the present-day middle school, served African American students from 1932 until 1953, when it was destroyed by fire. A replacement school – Vandervall Elementary – was constructed on the other side of the street and served African American students until integration in 1968. Three years later, it reopened as Pemberton Elementary.

A descendant of the Vandervall brothers for whom the elementary school was named address the board prior to its vote tonight and expressed her thanks for its anticipated selection of the Quioccasin name.

"I'm coming before you to say thank you, thank you, thank you," said Barbara Pearson. "We are so appreciative and have the utmost respect, because you did listen to us. We feel that you made the right [decision], and we are in agreement. I’m sure the Quioccasin community is thinking the same.”

It was a Vandervall family member who originally named the road Quioccasin Road, Cocke pointed out during the meeting.

The board's vote will not impact the school's nickname – the Senators – or colors. Both of those will be addressed by school administrators, Marshall said.

During today's work session, Assistant Superintendent for Operations Al Ciarochi told the board that his staff would be meeting with officials from the school in the coming weeks to determine exactly which items with the Byrd name will need to be replaced immediately with school system funds, which may be phased out over time and which may be replaced and paid for by parents.

The process is a time-consuming one, Ciarochi said, because there are a number of items to be identified and considered. Some parts of athletic team uniforms may need to be replaced – such as football jerseys (which contain the school's name) – but other parts will not need to be replaced (such as football pants, which contain no names), he said.

Prior to its vote, board members heard from a handful of speakers affiliated with the school who urged them to fully fund the replacement of all uniforms that bear the Byrd name. The school community will not be able to unify under the new name if the Byrd name continues to adorn clothing and other items for a number of years, the students, parents and teachers who spoke told the board.

* * *

Disclosure: Brookland District School Board member Bev Cocke is employed as a business development manager by T3 Media, LLC, the parent company of the Henrico Citizen.
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