WILMINGTON, N.C. (WECT) - The New Hanover County Board of Education voted Tuesday night to rename Walter L. Parsley Elementary School.
Board members had previously discussed the possibility of renaming the school because of Parsley’s role as one of the main conspirators of the 1898 Wilmington Massacre, when a group of about 2,000 white men brutally killed dozens of African-Americans and overthrew the local government. It remains the only successful coup d’etat in American history.
The motion to rename the school passed by a 5-1 vote, with Bill Rivenbark voting against. David Wortman wasn’t present at the meeting.
Rivenbark voted against the name change because he doesn’t believe it was named after the Parsley involved in the 1898 Massacre, but his grandson of the same name who gave the land that the school was built on.
“What the elder Parsley did and represented is just terrible,” said board member Bill Rivenbark. “But you can’t punish the rest of his family for the rest of their life. I don’t think that it was named after him,”
“Because these names are the same, the perception is the reality,” added board member Nelson Beaulieu. “The 1898 Walter L. Parsley, I can’t turn from that. That’s me personally, I just can’t turn from that. I can’t know what I know and know the pain that it causes some people and ignore that,”
Board members voted to allow the public 60 days to nominate new names for the elementary school. The board will make the final selection from the public’s submissions. The board also approved a policy that in the future, schools will only be named after geographical sites or locations.
The new name wouldn’t go into effect until the 2021-2022 school year.
The board also approved a contract with AT&T for 1,550 hotspots to provide high speed internet connection for the 2020-21 school year for students to participate in remote learning and the Virtual Academy.
The individual cost is $20.00 + tax a month, per device, for unlimited connection. The total cost for 1,550 hotspots for a year’s service is $398,040.