Superintendent Brent Vidrine speaks with Board member Brandon Johnson.jpg

The Monroe City School Board renamed Lee Junior High as Neville Junior High on Tuesday after previously rejecting the same name when recommended by a citizens committee last month.

At its meeting in August, the School Board declined to rename the school on 19th Street as Neville Junior High and indicated it would like to consider other names as well.

Earlier this year, the School Board tasked a 16-member committee to find alternative names for Lee Junior High. The school was originally named after Robert E. Lee, a general in the Confederate States Army during the American Civil War. The movement to rename the school gained momentum in the wake of “Black Lives Matter” protests sparked by the death of George Floyd in May.

According to School Board member Brandon Johnson, community members attended the Monroe City Schools facility committee meeting earlier this month and spoke on behalf of renaming Lee Junior High to Neville Junior High or M.H. Williams Junior High.

According to School Board Member Bill Willson, the facility committee approved the Neville Junior High name by a vote of 3-0.

Willson — an advocate of the Neville Junior High name — told The Ouachita Citizen that renaming the school was a step toward bringing peace to the community.

“There were a lot of people that indicated they did not want to rename Lee Junior High,” Willson said. “There were numerous reasons, but, again, we’re working to try and bring harmony within the community and trying to move forward. That’s why I felt it was best to move in that direction.”

In other news, the School Board voted to extend Superintendent Brent Vidrine’s contract as the school system’s superintendent for 12 more months.

According to board attorney Doug Lawrence, the School Board was required to vote on whether to extend Vidrine’s contract during the School Board’s meeting on Tuesday since it was the last scheduled meeting of the School Board before Vidrine’s contract expired.

Willson offered the motion to extend Vidrine’s current contract by 12 months. School Board member Jennifer Haneline seconded the motion.

“I think that Dr. Vidrine has shown continuing improvement in our system, in our programs, and I want us to recognize while egos may come into play, this is not politics. This is about a healthy vibrant community,” Haneline said. “And while some employees may fall asleep on the job and keep their job, Dr. Vidrine has never fallen asleep on his job.”

Vidrine’s contract renewal succeeded on a 5-2 vote. School Board members Haneline, Willson, Daryll Berry, Rick Saulsberry and Sharon Greer voted in favor of extending Vidrine’s contract. School Board members Betty Cooper and Brandon “B.J.” Johnson voted against renewing his contract.

Willson praised Vidrine’s leadership of operating the School System the past five years, which included natural disasters, a ransomware attack on the schools system and the Coronavirus pandemic.

“Dr. Vidrine has stepped up to be the leader and coach of our team,” Willson said. “You find the true test and character of a person when they’re knocked down and face challenges, and time and time again he has answered the call.”

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