Even though the East Baton Rouge Parish School Board last week officially shortened Robert E. Lee High to just Lee High, a slightly longer name that many parents and students prefer, Lee Magnet High School, is in no danger of going away.
“The parents take pride in saying ‘Lee Magnet High School,’ and you can’t stop them from saying that,” said Theresa Porter, director of magnet programs.
Porter’s office plans to keep marketing the school with the word “magnet” in the name unless directed not to.
“Magnet is a brand,” Porter said. “We use the word because parents are familiar with the concept.”
Although Robert E. Lee High School has been the school’s official name since the school opened in September 1959, the “Robert E.” long ago disappeared from school literature, except for official documents such as school report cards and diplomas. Instead, people have called the school simply “Lee High.” For instance, the signs at the school, which was recently rebuilt at cost of $54.7 million, all say “Lee High” or “Lee Patriots.”
The name started coming into vogue when Lee was converted to a dedicated magnet school in 2013. Similar to the better known Baton Rouge Magnet High, Lee has admission standards and is not limited to an attendance zone in the students it can enroll.
Many parents and students have embraced the “magnet” label as an imprimatur of quality.
“I think it should be Lee Magnet High School,” incoming ninth-grader Diamond Hunter, 13, told the School Board on Thursday. “Just to be at a magnet school is a privilege. To be there, you have to be the best of the best.”
Six other schools in Baton Rouge officially have the word “magnet” in their name. Not all are dedicated, or schoolwide, magnets. For instance, Scotlandville Magnet High School has kept the word magnet in its official name even though it has been nearly 20 years since it ceased being a dedicated magnet school; it is now a neighborhood school with a magnet program.
Porter noted there are also schools with magnet programs that don’t have “magnet” officially in their names, yet they promote themselves as magnet schools. She pointed to Belfair Montessori School and Capitol Middle School as examples. Consequently, she said, she has no problem if Lee High continues to promote itself as Lee Magnet High School.
“When the board approved this, I asked myself, ‘Are there are any schools marketing themselves as a magnet with the official word magnet?’ And there are,” Porter said.