WOODSTOCK — Arguments will be heard next month on the second petition challenging the renaming of two Shenandoah County schools.
Judge Kevin Black set the hearing for 9 a.m. July 9 in Shenandoah County Circuit Court.
The second petition seeks to reverse the School Board’s decision earlier this year to reallocate about $304,000 of this year’s budget to rename Stonewall Jackson High School and Ashby Lee Elementary School because they are named after Confederate generals.
The decision to rename the schools to Mountain View High School and Honey Run Elementary School was made last year. The new names take effect July 1, although the logo on the Stonewall Jackson High School gym floor has already been changed as have the clock faces.
The first petition challenging that decision was dismissed by Judge John Wetsel on March 1, stating that the petitioners were not financially aggrieved on a personal level with the change.
Black had recused himself from the first petition since he had represented several of the more than 440 complainants who signed it, but on Thursday he said he saw no conflict with the second petition.
Attorney Bradley Pollack, who filed the petition on behalf of the eight complainants, was present for the scheduling as was attorney T. Joel Francis, of BotkinRose PLC, on behalf of the School Board, and attorney Jason A. Botkins, on behalf of Shenandoah County Treasurer Cindy George.
George is named in the lawsuit as she is responsible for actually approving the reallocation of funds. She has filed a motion to dismiss the petition against her. Botkins said her arguments should only take about 30 minutes of the upcoming hearing.
In the latest petition, attorney Lindsay Brubaker, who represents the School Board and argued against the last petition, filed a demurrer that seeks to have the petition dismissed. She argues that the parents still have no legal standing since their children are not harmed by the change.
Black ordered Pollack to respond to the filings from the attorneys for George and the School Board in the next two weeks. The attorneys for George and the School Board would then have one week to respond before the hearing.
In the initial petition, attorney Robert Vaughn, who argued for the plaintiffs, filed a notice to appeal Wetsel’s dismissal to the Supreme Court of Virginia. Brubaker also filed a notice to appeal Wetsel’s decision to not require Pollack and Vaughn pay more than $41,000 in legal costs incurred by the School Board.
According to the Supreme Court Clerk’s Office on Friday, neither attorney has filed anything. Parties have 90 days from a judge's final order to actually file an appeal, a representative in the Supreme Court Clerk’s Office said.
A separate petition filed in December to remove former School Board Chairwoman Karen Whetzel, in part, for her role in the name changes, still has no hearings scheduled. Whetzel filed a motion to dismiss the petition in January.