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Austin ISD Board Votes To Rename Fulmore Middle School After Teacher Sarah Beth Lively

Gabriel C. Pérez

The Austin Independent School District's Board of Trustees voted Monday to rename Fulmore Middle School after a longtime social studies teacher, Sarah Beth Lively.

The move comes after more than a yearlong discussion about changing the names of district buildings honoring Confederate figures. The school's original namesake, Zachary Taylor Fulmore, was a private in the Confederate Army.

During the school board meeting, many attendees spoke in favor of renaming the school after Lively, who was present during the vote.

“The 25 years that Mrs. Lively taught was an accomplishment in its own right," said Eddie Ledesma, a former student. "But to have volunteered for another 22 years with no compensation other than her own gratification of helping others is almost unheard of.”

“She instilled a love of writing, communicating well," said another former student, Derek Castillo. "I took it all the way to get a degree at the University of Texas and practiced journalism for my career.”

The vote was 6-1-1, with Ann Teich voting against and Jayme Mathias abstaining.

Teich has been opposed to renaming the schools because of the costs and frustration with the community engagement process. She has also questioned why certain schools were earmarked for name changes while other schools named for people with ties to slavery were not.

Mathias expressed disappointment that the new name wasn't of a Latino member of the community. He said he didn't mean to disrespect Lively, but wanted to speak to the tension many people felt about the renaming process.

"The majority of our students are Latino and still less than 10 percent of our schools are named after Latinos," he said. "None of our high schools is named for a Latino unless it's an alternative school."

The new name will go into effect for the 2019-20 school year.

The board voted in November to change the name of the Allan Center, a former elementary school now used for administrative purposes, after Anita Ferrales Coy. Coy was a principal at the East Austin school and worked in the district for more than 20 years. 

The board must still vote on whether to change the names of Reagan and Lanier high schools. Eastside Memorial High School at the Johnston campus was also recommended for a name change, but the board delayed that vote while the school moves to a new location. 

Some in the Lanier and Reagan communities wanted to keep the school names and just go by the surname of the namesake rather than adopting entirely new names. 

Because of this, incoming District 1 representative, LaTisha Anderson, said she wants more time for the Reagan community to give feedback. She did not indicate a timeline for when she would bring it forward for a vote.

It's also unclear when Lanier's name will get a vote. Ann Teich, the board member who represents that school, is opposed to the name changes. She says she's heard from people in the community who don't want to lose the school's history and has cited cost as a concern. Typically, only the member who represents a school can put forward a vote regarding changes, so other board members would have to break precedent to put renaming Lanier up for a vote.

The board voted in February to change the names of the five facilities. After that vote, the district asked the public to submit potential new names. Then, AISD created a task force of community members to write the criteria for a new name.

Claire McInerny is a former education reporter for KUT.
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