GREENSBORO — Starting next school year, students will attend Swann Middle School instead of Aycock Middle.
The Guilford County Board of Education voted 8-1 Thursday night to rename the school after Melvin C. Swann Jr., a former Guilford County Schools administrator who played an important role in the desegregation of the Greensboro school district and the merger of the Guilford, Greensboro and High Point school systems.
Swann worked for the school system for 36 years, serving as a teacher, administrator and as the first deputy superintendent of the newly merged Guilford County Schools in 1993.
Board member Anita Sharpe, the sole dissenting vote, expressed admiration for Swann while saying that she does not support naming schools for people in general.
Widow Gloria Jean McCollum Swann and granddaughter Leah Swann attended the meeting, along with other friends and supporters. Leah Swann, who was the driving force behind the nomination, had tears in her eyes as board members congratulated her.
“My grandfather gave his life to education, 30 plus years,” she said in an interview prior to the meeting. “No matter anything, politics, race, economic status, he always put children’s needs first.”
Melvin C. Swann Jr. died last summer at the age of 80.
The vote follows two previous decisions by the board, first signaling that they wanted to replace the Aycock name and second a decision to specifically consider Swann’s name, out of a list of suggestions. Charles B. Aycock was an early 20th century North Carolina governor and education champion, but also an ardent segregationist.
On the recommendation of board member T. Dianne Bellamy-Small, the board voted to ask that a freestanding marquee on city property that has the Aycock school name on it be retained, but modified to denote that it is the “former” Aycock middle school. Bellamy-Small said she wanted to acknowledge, and not erase history with the change.
Earlier in the meeting Board of Education members questioned — and in some cases grilled — district staff over what have been acknowledged as problems with the ongoing renovations at Smith High School. Some of the most discussed questions and concerns involved mismatched tile in locker rooms, costs associated with ordering the school’s new wrestling mat, and how well or not the district staff had communicated with school community members about the issues at the school.
Superintendent Sharon Contreras agreed to have her staff put out a “Frequently Asked Questions” sheet to help address community questions on the project. That came after Bellamy-Small pressed her on whether there was something the district could do to share information about issues in a written way, outside of meeting minutes.
The board voted 5-4 to approve a 2017-18 calendar. It calls for seven inclement weather makeup days, which are days that students will attend school if they miss for snow or other poor weather earlier in the year. The first day of school will be Aug. 28 and the last day June 8, 2018, unless the district needs to use makeup days the week after.