ABILENE – The Abilene ISD Board of Trustees took action on several important items last Thursday night at its regular monthly meeting. The January meeting was pushed from Monday (Jan. 11) to Thursday (Jan. 14) because the AISD was closed last Monday because of hazardous road conditions resulting from a winter storm the day before.

Chief among the items the the school board took up was the renaming of three elementary schools that were named for Confederate figures. The issue of renaming Jackson, Johnston and Lee elementary schools came up last summer and made its way to the board shortly thereafter.

After a committee made up of school district personnel, parents and community members sent the board a list of potential names, the board took the list and chose three new names for each of those three schools. The new school names will go into effect at the start of the 2021-22 school year.

The new names of the schools are Dr. Jose Alcorta Sr. Elementary School (replacing Jackson Elementary School), Eugene Purcell Elementary School (replacing Johnston Elementary School) and Robert and Sammye Stafford Elementary School (replacing Lee Elementary School).

Below are short bios on each of the individuals for which those three schools are named:

Dr. Jose Alcorta Sr.: Taught at Abilene High School for six years before moving on to Hardin-Simmons University where he taught for 45 years. Also elected to two terms on the Abilene City Council in the 1970s.

• Eugene Purcell: Served at Johnston Elementary for more than 30 years as a teacher and, for one year, an administrator. 

Robert and Sammye Stafford: Robert Stafford was a Abilene ISD Teacher of the Year (1958) and director of the West Texas University Interscholastic League. Sammye Stafford, meanwhile, was the first Black to earn a degree from McMurry University, attaining a master’s degree in 1956, and served as president of the West Texas District Teachers Association during her time as an educator.

In addition to renaming those three schools, the Board of Trustees will also take up the renaming of Reagan Elementary School, also named after a Confederate figure. Reagan will close to students at the end of the 2020-21 school year, but will be renamed for alternate uses by the district.

Finally, the board approved a resolution regarding the continuation of Emergency Paid Sick Leave (EPSL) for AISD employees through the end of the 2020-21 school year. The resolution extends the qualifying reasons to be eligible for paid leave relating to COVID-19. The resolution extends the up of up to 80 hours of paid leave for full-time employees through the end of the contact year in June 2021.

That means that if an employee used all 80 hours already, that employee would now use their own leave, according to board policies. If an employee only used a portion of their 80 hours prior to Dec. 31, 2020, the resolution allows for the balance of the 80 hours to be available in the Spring of 2021 if needed. Additionally, if an employee did not use any of the leave prior to Dec. 31, 2020, the resolution extends the availability of the 80 hours of paid leave. The resolution also provides job protection for employees who must stay home if a child’s caregiver closes or is unavailable due to COVID-19 reasons.

For a full recap of the meeting, watch Dr. Young’s recap video here. If you’d like to watch the meeting in full, you can do so here.