What's In A (School) Name?

Aug 12, 2020

At its Tuesday evening meeting, the New Hanover County Board of Education continued its debate about renaming Parsley Elementary School.   

Walter L. Parsley was a white supremacist and co-conspirator in the 1898 Wilmington coup d'etat.  His grandson, also named Walter L. Parsley, inherited the family property in the Masonboro Sound area, and in 1999, sold a little more than 17 acres to New Hanover County Schools. Walter L. Parsley Elementary opened in 2001. Simple enough. But after that it gets complicated. 

Was the school named after the grandfather or the grandson?  That's not quite clear...and for some, that's an issue. 

Board member Nelson Beaulieu: 

Because these names are the exact same, the perception has become the reality. And knowing the reality of the 1898 Walter L. Parsley, I can't turn from that. I can't know what I know and know the pain that it causes some people, and then ignore that.

With pressure mounting to change the name, The board ultimately decided that changing the overall school naming policy offered an alternative to debating which Walter the school was named after. Why not name all schools after neighborhoods... like “Holly Tree” or “Winter Park?”

Chairperson of the Board, Lisa Estep:

We just made a policy that says that the schools have to be named after the geographical area. Parsley would not be a geographical area name.

The board adopted the new school naming policy on a 5-1 vote with Bill Rivenbark voting no. From here, the community will have at least 60 days to submit names on the school board’s website.