Donor agrees to pay to remove Confederate officers names from Oklahoma City schools
A local attorney with ties to Oklahoma City Public Schools has agreed to pay to remove all signs and symbols associated with Confederate officers that are in district schools.
Kyle Sweet, a health care attorney with offices in Oklahoma City and Tulsa, told The Oklahoman on Monday that he's more interested in doing the right thing than making a political statement.
"I don't want to live in a community where precious innocent children of color would have to walk into a school that is named in honor of someone who is a leader in an organization who fought a war to be able to treat people just like them as property," he said.
Sweet, 48, said he found it troubling to learn there were schools in the Oklahoma City district named in honor of Confederate generals.
"I don't see how I could look my African American friends and co-workers in the eye knowing that I didn't take some type of action to prevent that from happening," he said. "To me it's very simple: those children deserve to walk through doors named in honor of someone who has actually advanced this community and country — not fought a war to separate from it."
Sweet and school board member Charles Henry were classmates at Northwest Classen High School. Both men went on to become attorneys.
Henry posted on his Facebook page that Sweet had agreed to foot the bill to remove the questionable names if the district decides to move forward with a proposal to do so.
"I am proud to announce that my friend, colleague & classmate Kyle Sweet will pay the cost to remove any signage and symbols of any confederate officers on any of the 2 to 4 elementary schools in OKC," Henry posted.
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"This means a lot to me and to those that support the change for the removal of people and symbols that advocated the preservation of the institution of slavery and its vestiges of white supremacy and nationalism," he posted.
Henry also posted that he has researched the cost to replace the signs at each school in question.
"Companies quoted me rates between $2K to $5K, nowhere near $50K," he stated in the post. "The near $50K signs are electronic signs. The District has already stated the other expense may be just letterhead and business cards. Since there may be just 2 schools instead of 4 now, the total cost could be around $5K instead of the $200K."
That price Henry quoted is considerably less than the $50,000 per school that Oklahoma City Public Schools Superintendent Aurora Lora has projected.
Lora said last week she will gauge public input before deciding whether to rename four elementary schools named after Confederate leaders.
A majority of school board members have said they are in favor of renaming any school that is named after a Confederate officer.
According to the school district's website, Jackson, Lee, Stand Watie and Wheeler elementary schools are named after Confederate generals.
Questions have been raised about whether Lee and Wheeler are actually named after prominent local citizens and not Confederate leaders.
A district spokeswoman declined to comment "until we have more details."
"We are still researching actual costs and working with a historian to collect verifiable facts regarding our school namesakes," spokeswoman Courtney Morton said Monday.