Russell Lee to Replace Robert E. Lee Elementary School
Kindergarten hall to be named after Bettie Mann
At tonight's board meeting, trustees approved Russell Lee as the new name to replace Robert E. Lee Elementary School. Trustees also approved naming the school's kindergarten hall after Bettie Mann.
After hundreds of names were submitted for consideration, the Robert E. Lee Elementary School's Campus Advisory Council narrowed the list of nominations to three.
The CAC is an advisory body made up of teachers, staff, parents and other members of the school community.
Below is information provided by the CAC about the reason the group selected RussellLee to be among the final three.
"Russell Lee was one of America's most important photographers. He is best known for his work with the Farm Security Administration, documenting poor and working people of all races and ethnicities in Texas and many other states. He was a longtime resident of the school's neighborhood and the first professor of photography at the University of Texas. He is known for being an inspiring teacher and a compassionate artist. A major collection of his work is archived at the Briscoe Center for American History at UT. This includes the renowned photo essay, "Study of the Spanish Speaking People of Texas."
Russell Lee was a local figure who was a friend, mentor and teacher to many people in our neighborhood. As a person and artist, he embodies our culture of learning and respect for diversity. His work, hanging in the hallways of the school, would provide ready-made lessons in history and the beauty of ordinary people. His name also allows us to retain "Lee" as the name of our community, while allowing us to attribute the name to a person we feel genuinely embodies our values."
The trustees also voted to name the kindergarten hall after Bettie Mann. Bettie Mann was the first African-American teacher at Lee Elementary School, and her sons were its first African-American students in the 1960s, when Austin schools were beginning to integrate. Starting in 1968, she taught at Lee for 37 years-22 years as a full-time kindergarten teacher and 15 years as a substitute.
Next steps in replacing the school name include replacing the lettering above the main entrance as well as the plastic molding of the marquee.
Other than the two main signs, the school will begin ordering supplies with the new name as needed.
To learn more about the process of renaming a school, please visit www.austinisd.org/naming.