Shenandoah County Public Schools Superintendent Mark Johnston released a statement on late Friday afternoon concerning an email that he had sent to a county resident about the renaming of two local schools.
"My poorly crafted email was critical of an individual for what I felt was taking advantage of the charged emotions around the issue," Johnston stated in the news release. "My comments were directed only at that individual. I had received an email from a parent indicating they felt like I was suggesting that anti-name change folks were ignorant or racist. That was certainly not my intent. I had previously apologized to the individual and I apologize to any person who took my comments as directed at them."
A mailer was delivered by the U.S. Postal Service to an unknown number of Shenandoah County residents on Friday. It contained four pages of unattributed content regarding the superintendent, School Board members and this week's board meeting where discussion on renaming Stonewall Jackson High School and Ashby Lee Elementary is on the agenda. The front page article of the mailer claims Johnston's letter to the local resident was obtained through a Freedom of Information request.
The board approved changing the names on July 9 in an effort to cut ties with the buildings' references to the Confederacy and military officers who fought for it during the Civil War.
The mailer, titled "The Freedom Press", did not indicate who wrote the articles or paid for its mailing. It only provided an email address.
The Northern Virginia Daily contacted the email address in the mailer asking for the identity of the mailer's producer and the response was "just a group of concerned taxpayers."
According to the agenda for Thursday's School Board meeting, Johnston and the board will discuss a proposed process for renaming Stonewall Jackson and Ashby Lee and naming a new mascot for Ashby Lee.
Action is not expected to be taken on this item until the Sept. 10 meeting. Thursday's meeting starts at 6:30 p.m. with a 30-minute closed session followed by an open session starting at 7 p.m.