Drake Site Leadership Council moves to implement name change


Image has been edited for artistic affect. (Henry Hoelter)

By Paige Anderson

In early June, the Drake Site Leadership Council, a group of teachers, administrators, and parents, began the process of developing a new name for Sir Francis Drake High School. The change will likely be finalized by the end of the semester, according to assistant principal Chad Stuart. In the meantime, the school has been temporarily named High School 1327. The name change was advocated for by students, parents, and teachers who expressed outrage over the school being named after Sir Francis Drake, a 16th-century slave trader and owner. 

 “We acknowledge the racist and violent acts of Francis Drake, a slave trader, slave owner, and colonizer, and the legacy of white supremacy he represents. Honoring such a person is counter to the values held by our community and counter to the lessons and values we wish our students and colleagues to learn,” the H.S. 1327 administration wrote in a statement.

“We at the school and TUHSD [Tam district] believe that a school name should reflect our values and our commitment to creating a safe and healthy learning environment for all students. One of our goals is to become more anti-racist, and our current school name does not align with this goal and our values,” the H.S. 1327 administration wrote in a FAQ letter.

 “It was a combination of many stakeholders asking for our school and our school district to consider a change. This included our staff and several students. In addition, there was a loud call from some community members for a change,” Stuart said. 

Though the school is planning on distancing themselves from the slave trader, the H.S. 1327 administration emphasized in an informational newsletter that they still aim to encourage school spirit.

Community input sessions are scheduled in the upcoming weeks for the public to voice their criticisms, concerns, and suggestions to both the Board of Trustees and District administration. “We have an online form, where people can submit suggestions. There have been over 250 submissions already, with some being repeat ideas. A majority of the suggestions are for landmarks as opposed to naming it after a person,” Stuart wrote in an email. “We recognize that a performative act of a simple name change is not enough. We recognize that for far too long, we have failed in our allyship to our colleagues, students, and communities of color.” Internal discussions have also been held with the H.S. 1327 student body during tutorial and advisory, in addition to a specific informational session with the school administration on August 11. 

Until recently, students had not communally vocalized an aversion to the name. As awareness has been spread of how this name represents both the district and the school in particular, students, and parents have come forward with grievances about the name. The attitude of the community is mixed. Some parents worry that the change will confuse their children and make the learning environment irregular, and that the change is unnecessary because Drake’s history is debatable. During a community public forum held on September 9, parents, board members and alumni of the school spoke about the change.

“It’s been very difficult hearing so many different views,” Leslie Harlander, president of the board of trustees, said. “It’s a very emotional topic.” 

“There is a lot of whitewashed history out there, painting a rosy glow,” High School 1327 alumna Stephanie Graeter said. “There is no doubt Drake was a slave trader, a murderer, and a rapist, and he stands for colonialism.” 

Many community members debated the history of Sir Francis Drake and argued whether or not he did indeed participate in the trading of enslaved people after his early 20’s. 

“There is a lot of misinformation out there,” alumna Elena Keating said. “We are not racist. This is not about race.” Many community members refuted this statement, saying, “Drake was a brutal rapist and pillager until the day he died in 1596. Don’t believe the lies. He never liberated slaves,” and that the Sir Francis Drake name itself “represents a bloody and violent colonial past.” 

The reactions, as anticipated, are a mixed bag. Some are fully in support of the name change and the reasons behind it. Others do not think it is needed. Some are concerned that the name on the buildings came down prior to an official name change and that their child’s school doesn’t have a name. That said, we have received a lot of support for the name change, for many feel it is one of many steps toward making our school inclusive for all,” Stuart said.  

It is estimated by the district that the name change will cost at least $400,000 to redesign the sports fields, uniforms, legal papers, contracts, and logos. Because the District has faced severe cutbacks after the parcel tax Measure B failed in March, H.S. 1327 administrators have made it clear that no district funds will be used for name change expenses.

“We have had many supporters of the name change that have indicated they will lead a fundraising drive to pay for items of the name change. So, the funding will come from private donations and grants,” Stuart said.

“This name change is critical to the ecosystem of [H.S.] 1327, making a branding change that hopefully inspires a safer and more welcoming future,” H.S. Junior Mal Kim-Price said. 

Fundraising for the name change will be conducted over the next few months. Minutes from public meetings where community members offered name suggestions are being consolidated and the change “should be finalized by December” Stuart said.