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NHCS Board votes to pull Rick Holliday's name from stadium

The Laney High School football stadium will no longer be named for former Deputy Superintendent Dr. Rick Holliday.

Against the backdrop of recent arrests of former employees of New Hanover County Schools, the Board of Education worked through a number of issues Tuesday evening -- including the request to change the name of Laney High School’s football stadium, which has been discussed for over a year.

Board Chair Stefanie Adams started the meeting by addressing the arrests of two former staff members David Bostian and Ronnie Lynn Strickland. They are accused of sexually abusing former students.

“All of our educators need to know what the expectations are when it comes to reporting anything they see or hear as it relates to student safety, and then, if someone violates those expectations, everyone needs to understand, they will be held accountable.”

Bostian has since died by suicide. After Adams’s statement, it was time for those in the audience to speak:

“The name that’s displayed at the top of the Laney Stadium is one that should have never been there -- and is long overdue to be removed. There are many things that divide our community in our school system, but on this we are united.”

That’s community member Barbara Anderson. And the name she’s referring to is that of former Deputy Superintendent Rick Holliday. One of the allegations against him is that he failed to formally investigate teachers after reports of their sex crimes against students.

Board Member Judy Justice brought forth the motion to remove Rick Holliday's name from Laney High School Stadium.
Board Member Judy Justice brought forth the motion to remove Rick Holliday's name from Laney High School Stadium.

After several members of the audience, including Anderson, spoke in favor of changing the name, the board unanimously agreed. The district will wait 60 days for public input before selecting a new name.

In other board agenda items, they reviewed the upcoming school year budget and unanimously approved a data-sharing agreement with Cape Fear Collective.

And in a 4-3 vote, the district's high schools will be allowed to host smaller prom gatherings in accordance with CDC and DHHS guidance.

Board members Stephanie Walker and Judy Justice tried to institute remote Wednesdays and eliminate the hybrid option for middle and high school students, but they failed to get the motion passed.

Justice said that the teachers she’d talked with preferred to have students either fully remote or in-person.

In response, Board Chair Adams said,

“Ms. Justice, with all due respect, teachers were worried about Plan B. Teachers were worried about Plan A. And what occurred every time is that we’ve made it work. We’ve figured it out, and I understand there may be discomfort, but we’re on Day 2, and there’s such limited time left this year, why make them change again a week from now?”

Justice: “Because they requested it.”

Walker and Justice also asked about the number of students in the hybrid plan, and Superintendent Dr. Charles Foust responded that they didn’t have those figures.

Rachel is a graduate of UNCW's Master of Public Administration program, specializing in Urban and Regional Policy and Planning. She also received a Master of Education and two Bachelor of Arts degrees in Political Science and French Language & Literature from NC State University. She served as WHQR's News Fellow from 2017-2019. Contact her by email: rkeith@whqr.org or on Twitter @RachelKWHQR