- The Washington Times - Thursday, February 18, 2016

Alumni of a Washington, D.C., high school are pushing back against a proposal that would rename the building in honor of Marion Barry, the four-term mayor and former Ward 8 councilmember who presided over District politics for decades notwithstanding a prison stint and other scandals.

Former students of Frank W. Ballou Senior High in Southeast D.C. will hold a meeting on Thursday night amid efforts to rename the school for Barry, who passed away in November 2014 at the age of 78.

Mayor Muriel Bowser said late last year that the city was weighing several options with regards to honoring Barry’s legacy, among them renaming the school or an area road for the so-called “Mayor for Life.” Not all Ballou alumni are on board with the possible name change, however, and a group of former students plan on discussing their opposition at Thursday’s meeting.

“This is a battle that should not be occurring. It is showing a total disregard to those who love the school and what it means to them. To change the name would delete all history and start from day one,” alumna Karen Lucas of the Ballou Alumni Cares Group posted on Facebook, Fox 5 DC first reported on Wednesday.

Instead, Ms. Lucas said the city should consider starting from scratch and honor the former mayor by naming a future facility after Barry.

“To name a new school/building would allow the building a great start by giving it Barry’s name,” she wrote.

An online petition urging the city not to the high school had garnered more than 600 signatures as of early Thursday afternoon, rife with comments from current and former students who believe the building should remain dedicated to Frank Washington Ballou, the superintendent of D.C. public schools from 1920 to 1943.

“It is fiscally irresponsible to rip up floors, repaint (many) walls, remove murals, replace the glass front that holds the Ballou name and even take down our beloved statue in the courtyard of a school that was just finished after enduring a long construction phase to rename it,” said alumna Danitra Dorsey-Daniel.

“Ballou Knights are proud of our name and we do not want it changed!” added Jackie Dillard, a former student who graduated from the school in 1990 — the same year Barry was sentenced to six months in federal prison after he was caught on camera smoking crack cocaine with a prostitute inside a D.C. motel.

Nevertheless, Barry’s family are pushing for a name change at Ballou, and his son, 35-year-old Marion Christopher Barry, has recently posted on the school’s official Facebook page to condemn the former superintendent as a racist who refused to desegregate the D.C. public school system. A separate petition that calls for changing the name to Marion Barry High had been digitally signed only 87 times by early Thursday.

As of 2011, Ballou High’s student body was 98 percent black and 2 percent white, according to the National Center for Education Statistics. The school opened in 1958 and is well renowned for its choir and band.

“High School High,” a 1996 comedy staring Jon Lovitz, centers around a fictitious “Marion Barry High School.” A statute of the former mayor, complete with smoking pipe, was used in the film.

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