The fight for renaming Alvarado Middle School after Filipino American leaders continued Tuesday as about 150 local youth marched from the school to the New Haven Board of Education meeting to voice their support.
The Tuesday night meeting was an informational one called for by the school board to clear the air on a number of concerns.
The topic became a highly debated, contentious community issue when the board discussed possibly renaming the school after Filipino American labor leaders Larry Itliong and Philip Vera Cruz on March 5. The matter raised many questions from community members.
As the decision on the name change lingers, school board members set the record straight on a few key items Tuesday night.
A name change is already approved
“This board has already decided to change the name of Alvarado Middle School. That is not the question anymore. The question is: What will the name be?” board president Linda Canlas stated Tuesday.
According to board member Michelle Matthews, the board unanimously approved renaming Alvarado Middle School during their Jan. 15 meeting.
A naming committee then pondered various names before presenting the board with the Itliong-Vera Cruz Middle School name — an idea that has been kicked around the district for 13 years and passed over three times in the past, board members said.
Who’s going to pay for it?
A big concern among those opposing the name change is the cost, which district officials estimated at $10,000, according to media reports. Though board members themselves did not directly comment on the cost Tuesday night, supporting organizations said they would raise funds and pay for it themselves.
“Rest assured that we will not ask for general funds from the school district,” said councilman Jim Navarro, who is also a member of the Filipino American Chamber of Commerce and a former New Haven board member. “Not a single dollar from the district will be spent or fund this project.”
What’s in a name?
Many of those opposed to the change argue that it would neglect the historic significance of its current name — that of two-time governor Juan B. Alvarado, who served as California’s governor from 1836 to 1842, and for whom the town of Alvarado was named after.
But that’s not exactly the case, according to Matthews.
“While I recognize the attachment to Alvarado Middle School and its name, those of you who know this community and know our history know that the reason Alvarado Middle School was named Alvarado Middle School is because it was located adjacent to Alvarado Elementary,” Matthews said.
Other schools in the district already reflect and embrace the community’s diversity, including Cesar Chavez Middle School, which was originally named New Haven Middle School.
The Alvarado name also continues to live on as two main roads and an elementary school bear it, board member Jonas Dino added.
If the name change is adopted, it would be the first school in the country named after Filipino Americans, according to board members. “That’s extraordinary right there,” Dino said.
Despite no action being taken, more than a dozen community members and leaders spoke at the meeting to reiterate their support:
- Joe Ku’e Angeles, a Logan counselor and member of the New Haven Pilipino American Society for Education: “We have the money … This needs to happen for diversity, for no other reason than that. New Haven is a district and a community that celebrates the idea of diversity … This economy will not change in six months. It will not change in a year.”
- Erica Viray-Santos, a San Leandro teacher and former New Haven teacher: “We are not just trying to rename a facility, we are trying to instill a strong sense of self … This is not just Filipino history, it’s American history.”
- A James Logan High School student: “This renaming does not divide us but unite us … This is history in the making. We are part of this history. I say ‘we’ even though I am not Filipino. I am the people. I am Itliong, I am Vera Cruz.”
The only opposing voice came from the Alvarado Middle School School Site Council. Member Lance Nishihira read a letter to the school board acknowledging the importance of the two Filipino American leaders but asking they delay taking any action on the matter.
"What’s the hurry? Such a discretionary expense can surely wait until the school district is on firmer footing," Nishihira said.
What happens now?
The Board of Education will decide on a name based on a recommendation from the naming committee at their next meeting, which will be held April 16.
How do you feel about the name change? Tell us in the comments below.