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Denton ISD meeting agenda: Let's take a look at how we name our buildings

Denton ISD board members will tackle the issue of building names again Tuesday night, this time in an open session.

According to an agenda posted Friday, the board will take up two items related to facility names at its December board meeting. First, board members will hold a discussion about the process the district goes through when it names a building. Second, they'll "consider approval of naming of district facilities" during the new business portion of the open session.

Though there's no specific building named in the agenda item, the board is expected to vote again on its previous decision to rename Robert E. Lee Elementary School for longtime local educator Alice Alexander.

The board came under fire last month when members came out of a closed session meeting and voted unanimously on the name change. There was no specific agenda item that referenced Lee Elementary, Alice Alexander or any renaming of a school facility.

Some residents, local officials and attorneys say they believe the district may have violated the Texas Open Meetings Act by not posting a clear-cut agenda item about the name change and discussing it in a closed-door session.

"A school name change is a matter of high public interest," Houston attorney Joseph Larsen said. "It should've been specifically laid out in open session."

Larsen, who works with the Texas Freedom of Information Foundation, said the board needed to re-vote on the name change in open session under a clear agenda item to avoid legal challenges, which could come from the district attorney or anyone willing to sue Denton ISD.

Currently, the district accepts community name submissions for its facilities year-round. The board looks at the submissions, discusses them in closed session and then comes back into open session to vote on the name.

When board members voted on the names of Braswell High School, Bell Elementary School and Rodriguez Middle School, they posted an item titled "naming of school facilities" under the open meeting portion of the agenda. That wasn't the case with Lee Elementary.

Board President Mia Price said last week she wanted to review the naming policy in an effort to make the process clearer for the public.

"Transparency is very important to me," Price said. "If there's even a perception that we aren't being transparent, I want to address that."

A friendly reminder for anyone with a district-related issue: Residents can always speak during the open forum portion of school board meetings. Just fill out a speaker card with the superintendent's secretary prior to the meeting and share your thoughts within the three-minute time limit.

The board meeting starts at 6 p.m. at the Stephens Central Services Building, 1307 N. Locust St. in Denton.

CAITLYN JONES can be reached at 940-566-6862.