When the 2018-19 school year opens in fall, Lee High School will be LEE High School and students will rally under a new mascot: a military service dog.
The change comes in the wake of a name change – from Robert E. Lee High School to Legacy of Educational Excellence High School, or LEE High School – after a national debate about Confederate monuments and schools named for Confederate figures.
After Lee students submitted a petition asking that the school’s name be changed, North East Independent School District trustees voted in August to change the school’s name, but drew some criticism in October when they announced that the name change would be an acronym of the old name.
Board President Shannon Grona said adopting such an acronym would limit costs associated with changing the school’s name. Even though the board did not have oversight of the school mascot and colors, Grona recommended keeping the Volunteer mascot name and red-and-grey school colors.
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The school’s previous logo depicted a Confederate soldier named “Grumpy Gus” and 13 stars. With the start of the 2018-19 year, the new logo will feature a military service dog leaping into action.
Lee High School Principal Nicole Franco initiated a new mascot design process in January, asking for student submissions in line with the idea of a volunteer. District guidelines specified it should be a “wholesome image,” use school colors, and “stand the test of time.” Franco said the mascot did not have to be a human.
She asked students to submit a description of their image and an essay justifying their choice. NEISD spokeswoman Aubrey Chancellor said the student who submitted the service dog said it would be a good choice because “dogs are loyal.”
Students currently enrolled at Lee in grades 9-11 and those zoned to attend the high school in the next year then voted on three choices: a military service dog, a fighter jet, and an individual serving in the military.
Both the new name and logo will go into effect after the 2017-18 school year.
“The mascot of Volunteers will remain for LEE High School and we are excited to debut the new image of a service dog in the 2018-19 school year,” Chancellor told the Rivard Report.
At a November board meeting, NEISD Superintendent Brian Gottardy said LEE High School would also develop a new school song, rename some school organizations with names containing Confederate references, and create a Robert E. Lee High School Museum. At this meeting, Gottardy estimated the total cost associated with changing the school’s name will be $300,000.
“If we were to do a comprehensive change, we would be spending well over a million dollars more than that number,” he said.
Gottardy said further details about the cost of the renaming would be forthcoming once a new mascot had been chosen.