The Council Oak Tree is at 18th Street and Cheyenne Avenue in Tulsa. It is where the Muscogee (Creek) Nation held its first council fires in 1836 after being forcibly removed from the southeastern United States. MIKE SIMONS/Tulsa World

The committee tasked with renaming Lee School deliberated about six hours Tuesday evening, arriving at the name Council Oak Elementary School around 11:30 p.m.

Provided the Tulsa school board adopts the new name on Aug. 6, the Lee renaming process will draw to a close after nearly a year of controversy.

The ad hoc committee began deliberating on five proposed names at 5:30 p.m. Tuesday.

The other names the committee was considering were Clara Luper, Woody Guthrie, Abraham Lincoln and Maple Ridge.

“Council Oak is just a few hundred yards northwest of our school,” Principal Aubrey Flowers said in a letter to parents. The Council Oak Tree, at 18th Street and Cheyenne Avenue, “and our school are on the same Creek allotment of Wehiley Naharkey, surrounded by the Creek allotments of many names well know even today, such as Perryman, Coney, Woodward, Tuckabachee, Childers, Tiger, Hickory and many more.”

She added: “Council Oak represents the historic founding of Tulsa. Council Oak symbolizes hope, the continuity of civilization, the value of conversation and dialogue in the face of injustice and perseverance.”

This will be the second time the board has changed the name of Tulsa Public Schools’ oldest elementary school. In May, the school board renamed the elementary school simply Lee School after having rescinded the name Robert E. Lee Elementary School in March.

However, that left many frustrated. The school originally was named for Confederate Gen. Robert E. Lee, a slaveholder and Mexican War veteran, and some said the new name didn’t do enough to erase the Confederate connection.

The Lee School decision came in a rare split vote, 4-3. After the vote, two board members — Suzanne Schreiber and Cindy Decker — who voted for it said they regretted how the process unfolded.

Their change of heart paved the way for the school board to suspend the Lee name change from taking effect and set up a second renaming process. That angered many people in the Lee community.

People who have advocated for retaining the Lee name cited a survey of the community this spring that showed a majority of respondents wanted to retain the Lee surname. But board member Cindy Decker said last week that because of how offensive the name is to some, changing the name isn’t about what the majority wants.

“Something I think is interesting about all this is our nation works with majority wins, and I’ve started wondering, in this sort of case, if majority is not what should be the deciding factor,” said Decker. “If it’s so hurtful to even 15 percent of the population — these are public schools that serve all.”

Samuel Hardiman


Twitter: @samhardiman