Tyler ISD Board of Trustees president: 'Discussion of the name change has concluded'

TYLER, TX (KLTV) - UPDATE: Rev. Fritz Hager, Jr., president of the Tyler ISD school board trustees, sent the following statement on Thursday evening.

Earlier today I received requests from Rev. Mason and Mr. Martinez to remove the agenda item related to a possible name change for Robert E Lee HS that they previously submitted.  I have directed the Superintendent to remove the item from the June 7 meeting and return the meeting to its customary time and format as our monthly board workshop.

Although I am personally disappointed with this outcome, my respect for my fellow board members has grown throughout this process, especially Rev. Mason, Mr. Martinez, and Mr. Bergfeld, who have modeled diligence, openness to alternative viewpoints, and concern for our entire community.  Although different viewpoints have been passionately and effectively advocated, I believe the Tyler ISD Board of Trustees remains united, along with our exceptional Superintendent, Dr. Marty Crawford, in continuing to work to improve student outcomes.  Excellent public schools are critical to the long-term health and success of our community and I am honored to work with my fellow trustees and the amazing staff of Tyler ISD to help students realize their God-given potential.

My hope is that now that the discussion of the name change has concluded, the more important conversations around the history of our community and our current challenges will still continue.  Tyler is a great community that I am thankful to live, raise my family, work and serve in but I know we can still be better.  As a pastor and school trustee I care deeply about reconciliation and am grieved by the deep wounds that still exist in our community.  Through prayer, time, authentic conversation and relationships, concern for our neighbors and caring leadership we can continue to make progress on these important issues.

Earlier Thursday evening, school board trustee member Orenthia Mason held a press conference to declare her response to the name change.

“But I will not take away the names of Robert E. Lee and John Tyler High School at this time and ever as long as I serve on this board,” board member Orenthia Mason said in a press conference today.

Mason says she credits her decision with the feedback heard from former and current students, the cost to change the names of the school and her own personal experience at Emmet J. Scott High School.
“Experiencing at times less than humane treatment, separate and not equal yet a quality education in a loving environment and community,” Mason said. “But in 1969-70 the school board closed our beloved Emmet J. Scott High School.”

Mason says herself along with other classmates strived to keep the legacy of Emmet J. Scott High School alive, but their efforts were minimal. For this reason, among others, Mason says she will not now nor ever change the names of the Tyler high schools.

“Why should I do the same thing to Robert E. Lee and John Tyler that was done to me at Emmet J. Scott, the wounds have still not healed,” Mason said.  
Mason says she hopes that the discussion will end regarding the name change of the high school, so the board can get back to the real priority at hand.
“My priority is not the names of the schools,” Mason said. “But my priority is that the students are achieving successfully.”

Talks of changing the name of schools in Tyler ISD appear to be temporarily off the table after the board opted Thursday afternoon to withdraw a discussion item on their June 7 agenda.

The meeting has now been changed to a workshop, according to Fritz Hager Jr., who is the board president.

More information is expected to be released Thursday evening.

Earlier in the day, a board trustee spoke out against the name change, saying she did not support it.

District 2 TISD Trustee Rev. Orenthia Mason says she does not support a name change of either high school and requested the agenda item referencing a name change be removed from the June 7th school board meeting.

Mason says TISD trustee Aaron Martinez also requested the removal of the agenda item.

Mason said in the conference that as long as she is on the school board, she will not support the change.

"The item can only be removed at the request of the trustees who originally submitted it, as long as the withdrawal request is submitted prior to the agenda being published 72 hours before the meeting," according to Tyler ISD Board of Trustees President, Rev. Fritz Hager Jr., in a public statement he made on Tuesday.

The conference follows the announcement that Tyler ISD trustees will hold a public meeting in June to discuss the timing and potential costs of changing the name of John Tyler and Robert E. Lee high schools.

Mason spent 27 years of her education career at Tyler ISD working as a teacher, elementary school consultant, Title I coordinator and principal. She was also a fourth-grade teacher for three years at Chandler Elementary School in Chandler, TX.

She is a former president of the Tyler ISD Board of Trustees.

Copyright 2018 KLTV. All rights reserved.