“The Identity Project”: renaming Matthew Maury Elementary School

Virginia

Matthew Maury, known as the "Father of Modern Oceanography and Naval Meteorology," was a member of the Confederate Army.

The school board has launched its community education and engagement program period.

ALEXANDRIA, Va. (WDVM) — The Alexandria City Public Schools School Board has launched its community education and engagement program period: the first step of its process to rename Matthew Maury Elementary School. The process has been named “The Identity Project.”

“We are critically aware that there is a pressing need in our schools, our community and our nation to find ways to talk about race constructively and respectfully,” the school system said. “One of the ways that we can move forward is by acknowledging our own history while refusing to allow that history to define who we currently are as a school division in the present.”

Matthew Maury, known as the “Father of Modern Oceanography and Naval Meteorology,” was a member of the Confederate Army. ACPS says he “helped acquire a ship for the Confederacy while advocating to end the war in America.”

Maury Elementary parent Pamela Vetrini was at the Smithsonian’s National Portrait Gallery with her young son when they came across a bust of Maury. “My son was so excited to see him until we noticed it was in a ‘famous Confederates’ exhibit,” Vetrini said. “At that moment I sort of started to realize how ashamed how I should be that the name of this white supremacist Confederate was on our school.”

About a year ago, Vetrini tried to get a group together to protest the school’s name. The effort didn’t gain traction until George Floyd was murdered earlier this year. “I saw the movement to change the name of T.C. [Williams High School] and thought it was a good moment,” she said. Her petition got 200 signatures in two days.

“In explaining it to my elementary school student, he was able to understand it in black and white,” Vetrini said. “When he saw him in the portrait gallery he started putting it together, that, ‘Maybe I shouldn’t be singing songs about this great mariner when he was actually a traitor of the United States.'”

Vetrini has been happy with the school system’s efforts. “It’s been a very thoughtful and thorough process and it’s given anyone who has objections or concerns an opportunity to speak up.”

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