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School Board Says AMS Name Change Will Happen, But to What Name?

The topic will be brought back for discussion at the next school board meeting.

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.

Public comment

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.

Edward April 03, 2013 at 05:45 AM
Quincy... My country is the "United States of America" even though my Ancestors came from Norway, France, Germany and Ireland. Why do Philipenos from the Philipines change the "Ph" to "F" after they come to the United States and call themselves Filipinos? Why do they want to change the name of Alvarado Middle School and "upset everyone" when, You know, they are selling off "Cabellio Elementary" to raise funds for the School District and the adjacent park could be named after these two Union leaders without all this hassle. Just 3 blocks from Alvarado Middle School, this park has Lighted Tennis Courts, Baseball Diamond and is owned by the City. Here is a perfect oppertunity to name somehting that will change it's Name anyway. . As a Union Member myself, I know there needs to be recognition without Alienation. It's time we take this off the School Board Agenda and put it on the City Agenda to rename the Park after the District Sells Cabellio School. After All, Cabellio School sits on old Agricultural land that used to be worked on by both Mexican and Phillipino (filipino) workers prior to being built.
Edward April 14, 2013 at 02:58 AM
Hey Kids!!~ lets name that school!!! Lets see what funny names we can call the Middle Schools of Union City. Lets start with Cesar Chavez Middle School. http://en.wikipedia.org/wiki/C%C3%A9sar_Ch%C3%A1vez How About "Lit'le Ceasars" after the Pizzas they try to bribe us with. http://www.littlecaesars.com/home.aspx. And how about the New name for the west side middle school they want to name Lary Itliong ( http://www.nytimes.com/2012/10/19/us/larry-itliong-forgotten-filipino-labor-leader.html?pagewanted=all&_r=1&; ) and Philip Vera Cruz ( http://en.wikipedia.org/wiki/Philip_Vera_Cruz ) Both were contrivercial like Marajuana so we could call it "Itchy BONG" because the school board must be "smoking something" to be so itch to change the name. Just look at all the posters of these guys to know they wanted change and nothing like implying legalization of marajuana to embody their revolutionary spirit. http://legalizationofmarijuana.com/ Hey Kids, It's your school. You Name the school for the 4 years you are there, then, the next Class gets to re-name it.
lb May 14, 2013 at 01:32 PM
As a Filipino and AMS alumni, I'm iffy on the name change. As a Filipino, I really do appreciate the name change more than you guys know. Most people don't know these two men and a lot of it has to do with them not even being written in textbooks. The name change brings honor and it can also be an opportunity for people to really get to know a piece of American history. Now... the whole thing about "turf wars" and "gangs" is just so ridiculous. If you're against renaming a school because of "upcoming turf wars," what does that say about the Union City community as a whole? You're really spitting on Chavez, Huertas, Vera Cruz, and Itliong's memories by doing something as stupid as "fighting over territory." Those four people were PARTNERS... they were FRIENDS. They would never want people to be against one another, especially in their names. So if you appreciate their contributions, the "turf war" thing needs to stop. What I'm more concerned about is the money. $10,000 is not enough to change a school's name; there's more than just switching out blocks of letters. I'm opposed to draining people's money just to gain some ethnic recognition and really, that's not something I would be proud of. All in all, the name change is meaningful to me, but at the same time, it seems to come at an inopportune time. If anything, I think what would be more effective is building a statue with a template describing their contributions.
lb May 14, 2013 at 01:46 PM
You know that's actually a good idea. If anything, I think the $10,000 can be used to make a statue that can be built on the park that describes who the park was named after and all the contributions Vera Cruz and Itliong made. I mean, as a Filipino, it's pretty cool to have a school named after important Filipino figures, but the park seems like a good way for recognition instead and everyone is happy... or happier.
Edward May 14, 2013 at 06:09 PM
Right now, the park as a generic name called" Vertrans Park". Why not rename it to Itlion-Chavez-VeraCruse Park and have a statue of all Three holding picket signs that sat "Honor Labor" in 3 different languages. Itliong's in Tagolog, Chavez's in Spanish and Veracruze's in English. The new developer, of the SOLD Cabelio School, must pay $10,000.00 into the Union City park fund for each unit built. 46 units is $460,000.00 towards the monument and improvments to the park, unless Union City takes it away to other parks. Better be there at the "Planing Commision" meetings to get what you want.

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