Bonnie Arbittier / Rivard Report
North East Independent School District announced Monday it will auction off memorabilia from Robert E. Lee High School, which will be renamed Legacy of Educational Excellence, or LEE High School, in the fall. The name change followed a debate last year about naming schools after Confederate leaders.
The school district announced on Facebook that it plans to auction 1,000 items bearing the Robert E. Lee name and image of the school’s old mascot, “Grumpy Gus.” The items include include apparel, cheerleading megaphones with the Confederate general’s name printed on them, old yearbooks, a mosaic tile art piece from the senior class of 1964, and folding chairs emblazoned with “Grumpy Gus” image.
The statue of Lee that stood in front of the school and signs with Lee’s name will not be auctioned but will go into a museum that will be located on LEE’s campus in a portion of the library, school officials said.
“These [auction items] are items that aren’t necessarily going to rise to the level of being put into the museum, so instead they will be sold, but there are other artifacts and historical items that have already been earmarked to already go into the museum,” NEISD spokeswoman Aubrey Chancellor said.
Several people commenting on the announcement expressed dismay that the school would be auctioning off relics and items from graduating classes.
“As a 1988 graduate of ROBERT E. LEE High School, I am absolutely disgusted by this ‘selling’ of items that have the name Robert E. Lee on them,” one alumna commented on Facebook. “You are really selling the school yearbooks that document the countless number of former students who helped define and establish the Excellence that Robert E. Lee is known for?”
Krystle Quintero graduated from Lee High School in 2005 and has several siblings who also attended the school.
“That’s pretty sad that there are things from the graduation classes,” Quintero said. “[Classes] probably raised money to have it donated to the school and they are going to make money off of it.”
The online auction will start on July 16 and run through July 30, with various items being sold each day. Buyers can pick up their items at the NEISD General Warehouse on July 31.
NEISD came under fire from both advocates and opponents of the name change after trustees voted to change the name but kept the acronym of the old name. At the time, school board President Shannon Grona said adopting such an acronym would limit costs associated with changing the school’s name.
At a November board meeting following the change, NEISD Superintendent Brian Gottardy estimated that the total cost of changing the school’s name from Robert E. Lee High School to LEE High School would be $300,000.
The expense came during an already tight financial year for the school district that serves 65,000 students. NEISD faces a deficit that resulted in trustees voting in June to take $23.4 million from NEISD’s fund balance, which is similar to a savings account.
Chancellor said the money from the auction will go back into the district’s general fund and will be used to offset the cost of the name change.