Students, parents, school leaders and community members gathered for a ceremony on Aug. 19 to commemorate the renaming of Aycock Middle School.
The Guilford County Board of Education voted 9-2 in August of 2016 to change the name. The new name, Dr. Melvin C. Swann Jr. Middle School, is named after the late, long time employee of the school system.
“The Swann name on this school stands for integrity, character and strength. The Swann name on this school stands for unity,” Superintendent Sharon Contreras said. “In the legacy of Dr. Swann, we will not be a divided school system and will ever resist division in our community.”
Swann worked for the Greensboro and Guilford school systems from 1960 to 1997. He also served as the district’s deputy superintendent; Swann passed away in 2016. Today, he is remembered by his push for equality and belief that students came first.
“My grandfather was a gentle giant, a true lover of education,” said Leah Swann, Dr. Swann’s granddaughter who attended the event. “He believed putting children first no matter what race, religion, economic status was. He believed all children had the right to a fair education.”
The middle school was previously named after Charles Brantley Aycock, the 50th governor of North Carolina, Aycock was known as the “education governor” for his time in office from 1901 to 1905, but had an agenda that promoted white supremacy and segregation.
According to the News & Record, State Representation Amos Quick, the former vice-chairman of Guilford County Board of Education, had this to say at the event “We as a board knew then what we as a nation are learning now, that is that names and symbols matter, names serve not only as identifiers but also as indicators of who or what stands as the representation of our community.” Quick led the committee charged with deciding whether or not to rename the school.
The name change coincides with many similar movements across the nation. The University of North Carolina at Greensboro removed Aycock’s name from its auditorium in May 2016, and many monuments for and named after Confederate soldiers or white supremacists are now being replaced or removed.
“I think that’s why it’s so significant. What he stood for in terms of fairness and equality for all students, I think that speaks well that the school is named in his memory,” said Barry Williams, an old friend of Swann’s who spoke at the celebration.