Dixie School District to be renamed Miller Creek Elementary School District

SAN RAFAEL, Calif. (AP) -- Trustees of the Dixie School District voted Tuesday to change the name of the 150-year-old district, which critics linked to the Confederacy and slavery.

Dixie will be renamed the Miller Creek Elementary School District, trustees decided. The vote was 3-1 with one abstention.

"Miller Creek Elementary School District will be displayed proudly on the marquee, building and buses just in time for the start of the 2019-20 school year," the district said in a news release late Tuesday evening.  

Trustees rejected three other options: Laurel Creek, Creekside or Kenne school district.

Trustees also voted 4-1 to rename the district's only elementary school, from Dixie to Lucas Valley Elementary.

"We are thrilled to have these decisions made so we can start the year off on a positive note," said Board President Brad Honsberger. "Our Board appreciates all of the input we received from our community during this process. We look forward to focusing our priorities on students in the coming year."

The name-change issue pitted parents against each other for months and generated heated debate in San Rafael, an overwhelmingly white city of 59,000 people. Some insisted the Dixie name was racially insensitive, while others complained the proposed change was political correctness run amok. 

The board of trustees voted in April to change both the name of the San Francisco Bay Area district and the name of its elementary school by Aug. 22, when classes resume. 

The cost of the name change, such as replacing signs, was estimated at nearly $40,000, but the Marin Community Foundation pledged to cover it. 

"With school starting on August 22, our goal will be to have signage in place for students when they arrive," said interim Superintendent Becky Rosales. "This is a tight timeline, but I am confident that we can make it happen."

Dixie is a nickname for the southern U.S. states that formed the pro-slavery Confederacy in 1860, sparking the Civil War. The legacy of the Confederacy prompts political, legal and cultural conflicts to this day. 

Those who supported changing the name said the district was named Dixie by James Miller, the school founder, on a dare by Confederate sympathizers. Those who opposed the change said the school system was named for Mary Dixie, a Miwok Indian woman who Miller knew in the 1840s. 

KTVU contributed to this report.