JACKSONVILLE, Fla. -- Duval County Public Schools superintendent Dr. Nikolai Vitti has made it clear, Nathan B. Forrest High School should get a new name. But Vitti wants to hear from the community first before any names are considered.
The issue of renaming the Westside high school came to a head during a town hall meeting Thursday night. The meeting was intended to discuss budget issues but the topic people wanted to talk about was the school's decades-old name.
Nathan B. Forrest was a Confederate Army general and Grand Wizard for the Ku Klux Klan. It's been a heated topic in Duval County for the past few years, and Vitti said it's with good reason.
"I don't think it sends the right message to the African-American community. I also don't think it represents what we want to be as Jacksonville," said Vitti.
But before any name changes are considered, Vitti has called on the school board member representing that district to get feedback from the community.
"I don't believe it's my role as superintendent to unilaterally make the decision," said Vitti.
As of 1997, the county's policy of naming and renaming institutions has stated that no new school shall be named after a person living or dead. The district has 26 elementary schools, 11 middle schools, one K-8, and 13 high schools who already bear someone's name.
At least five of them have Confederate-era names, but none have created as much controversy as Forrest High.
"If you look at the past, Nathan Forrest it doesn't speak to who we want to be and who we want our children to become," said Vitti.
In the coming weeks, school leaders will hold town-hall-style meetings to get everyone in the area involved in the discussion.