Orange County passes motion to rename school named after segregation-era board member

North Carolina

HILLSBOROUGH, N.C. (WNCN) – Orange County School Board members passed a motion on Monday night to rename C.W. Stanford Middle School.

C.W. Stanford Middle School was named after Charles Whitson Stanford, who served on the Orange County School Board from 1941 to 1967. He also served as chair of the board for 16 of those years.

Some school leaders argue that during Stanford’s tenure, the board did not move quickly enough to desegregate the schools.

Charles Whitson Stanford.

“Although Stanford may have been supportive of education, his support did not seem to extend to the members of the Black student body and community,” Dr. Dena Keeling, the Chief Equity Officer for Orange County Schools, said during the board’s Feb. 8 meeting.

Other board members point out that also during his tenure, Black residents were not allowed to speak at school board meetings.

“People of color were not allowed to attend board meetings and the overall community of color lost trust in the school board and the district,” said Jennifer Moore, an OCS board member.

Under the district’s current equity policy, it requires building names to reflect the district’s definition of equity which is the removal of barriers and the allocation of resources for equitable outcomes.

“I feel like going for this name change could be a step toward regaining trust in communities of color,” Moore said

But Stanford’s grandson, James Stanford, argued that he is not in support of changing the name. He said his grandfather was a dairy farmer who devoted a quarter-century of his life to serving on the Orange County School Board.

“I think he was a real believer in getting people off the farm and getting an education,” Stanford said.

Charles Whitson Stanford.

Stanford said his grandfather was at the forefront of the desegregation movement and that the school was named after his grandfather, not the board.

“I think it’s narrow-minded to want to rename the school and it’s unfair,” Stanford said. “They are placing the blame of what the Orange County School District did or didn’t do, over a very lengthy period of time, and a very different time, and placing the blame at his feet. I think they are attempting to erase history and I disagree with that.”

James Stanford said the school district never notified his family about the proposal to change the school’s name.

CBS 17 reached out to the school district and the chair of the board for a comment on this, but we have not yet heard back.

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