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Renaming of Hampton Middle School dubbed ‘historic’ event, Godwin name stripped from building

The sign that hangs on the front of George M. Hampton Middle School looks as if it has always been there.

The silver-lettered sign against a brick background uses the same lettering as a sign that once hung there until this summer, noting the school had originally been named after Mills E. Godwin, a former Virginia Governor who was once a segregationist but later reformed, and became a champion of public education.

All signs of Godwin had been wiped away from the school building by Thursday night when 400 people gathered in the gymnasium to re-dedicate the school after long-time Dale City resident, philanthropist, and retired Army Lt. Colonel Dr. George M. Hampton.

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School Board leaders billed the ceremony as a “historic event,” with School Board Chairman Ryan Sawyers saying the [Prince William County] School Board “made a mistake” when they named this school after Godwin. It is progressive thinking that led to the renaming of the school, he added.

Hampton said the school dedication in his honor is “the most significant event in his lifetime.” He also spoke about the lengthy process undertaken by the community to rename the school in his honor, which included several public meetings, and lengthy School Board meetings that drew residents who spoke for and against the renaming of Godwin Middle School.

A new high school dedicated this week was named after retired Virginia State Senator Charles “Chuck” Colgan, and a new elementary school was named after fallen Prince William County Firefighter Kyle Wilson. Hampton’s name was considered for both new buildings but was not selected.

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Instead, a March compromise among School Board members led to Wilson’s name going up at the newly constructed elementary school and Hampton’s name replacing Godwin’s at what was the first middle school to open in Dale City, in 1976.

“I lost the first time, and I won the second time,” said Hampton, as he recounted the steps of the renaming process during Thursday’s night’s re-dedication ceremony. “I was happy to accept the compromise.”

A video was shown to the crowd that also recounted the story of the naming process. Still images of the proceedings, regional media reports, and black and white photos from the 1960s depicting blacks barred from public schools during massive resistance were all tied together by two songs: Sam Cooke’s “A Change is Gonna Come,” and singer John Legend and rapper Common’s song “Glory.” The video depicted School Board leaders as political heroes upon reaching the compromise to rename the school.

“That sums up everything,” said Neabsco District School Board member Diane Ralston, who represents parents, students, teachers, and staff at Hampton Middle on the Prince William County School Board.

 

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Hampton Middle School Principal Jehovanni Mitchell hosted the ceremony, guiding elected officials, parents, teachers, students, and visitors from the Phi Lamda Lamda Chapter of Hampton’s Omega Psi Phi Fraternity through school. She outlined the changes needed to transform what Prince William County School Board Superintendent Steven Walts called “the other school” into Hampton Middle.

The school traded the “Governors” mascot, chosen because Mills E. Godwin was a two-term Virginia Governor, for the “Huskies.” The new school logo is now painted in the gym and in hallways, as well as printed on new t-shirts, sweatshirts, and other apparel that was sold at the re-dedication ceremony.

Residents remarked on the interior school of the school, noting rooms appeared brighter, and hallways and classrooms appeared cleaner than they had been when the school had the Godwin moniker.

School officials spent an estimated $265,700 to change the name of the and to make improvements to the building. A total of $66,000 was paid for new athletic uniforms, $60,000 on painting new murals in the gyms and hallways, $25,000 to repaint and reseal the gym floor, $23,000 to replace handicapped signage at the building, and $20,000 for miscellaneous expenses.

The estimated cost is lower than an April report from a School official that said that the renaming could cost as much as $500,000

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School officials have been busy this week at dedication ceremonies. On Monday, leaders opened the county’s 12th high school, Colgan High School — the first school in the county to include a swimming pool, and one of the costliest schools ever built in the state at $111 million.

The new Kyle Wilson Elementary was dedicated Tuesday as the county’s 59th elementary school. The school has 850 seats, and will provide overcrowding relief for nearby Ashland, Coles, and Rosa Parks elementary schools.

Prince William County Public Schools students head back to class for the first day of school on Monday, Aug. 29, 2016, to begin the 2016-17 school year.

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