Dixie name brings greater controversy to district

Grace Bouton

Dixie School District, located in northern San Rafael, has been mired in new controversies over an issue that originated in the late 1990s. Due to the racist connotations that many community members claim the name of the district has, residents are proposing a name change for the district.

Elizabeth Brekhus, a Redwood parent, is the local lawyer representing Marie Glickman, a board member for the district. According to Brekhus, while many people support the change, others feel the location of the school reduces the connotation of the name.

“There are some people who are attached to the name maybe because they went to Dixie School District or they think it doesn’t have the same impact because we’re in California and not in the South,” Brekhus said.

Glickman, a parent in the Dixie district in addition to her place on the board, is one resident who strongly supports the name change.

“I think we should change the name of the of the school district because the school district was named after the Confederacy during the Civil War and Dixie is also the national anthem of the Confederacy. I want my kids to know that and I think we can have a school district name that is much more inclusive,” Glickman said. The Dixie school board president, Brad Honsberg, agreed that the community is divided over the issue.

“Many residents have spoken out about its connotation with the Antebellum South, while other people have voiced how they want to keep the history of the name and shared their opinions at board meetings. However, the final decision is the board’s,” Honsberg said.

According to Honsberg, due to many differing opinions within the community, the board is considering an advisory vote regarding the controversy. It would be held similarly to an actual election, but the results would only serve as a reference for the board, not a final decision on the issue.

Made up of Mary E. Silveira Elementary,Vallecito Elementary, Dixie Elementary, and Miller Creek Middle School, Dixie School District is surrounded by the debate of its name

However, accusations of violations of the Brown Act, according to Brekhus, has lead to greater controversy in the already divided issue of the name change. The Brown Act requires all public business to be discussed in public to ensure transparency. Glickman was the trustee who brought this concern to the attention of the district and public. In this case, the act requires all board meetings that do not include employment evaluations to be held in public. The recent letter of concern submitted by Glickman’s legal counsel states that board members violated the act when discussing the controversy over the name of “Dixie” in a private setting.

The name change has been previously discussed in a closed meeting that was scheduled to cover the performance of the superintendent. However, Glickman believes that the Board of Trustees for the district started instead discussing the name change in a way that had no connection to the superintendent, according to the letter of concern.

According to Brekhus,The resolution created at the meeting in question proposed the advisory vote about the name change. However, because of the possible Brown Act violation, if a letter is submitted by a community member, everything that resulted from the violation at the closed meeting would be void, including the advisory vote.

The district and board are approaching this accusation seriously, according to Honsberg’s letter in response to the complaint.

“I am releasing your correspondence and this response to the public in the interest of transparency. The board will continue to process your concerns, and we will provide you with a more detailed response to address the concern you raise,” Honsberg said.

On Dec. 15 there will be a board meeting where residents can come and sign petitions for specific new names for the district. All petitions with at least 15 signatures of registered voters will then be submitted to the board on Jan. 15 and the board will then vote on whether to change the name and if so what name they will replace Dixie with, according to Glickman.