The New Haven Board of Education will vote tonight on whether it will rename Alvarado Middle School after Filipino American labor leaders Larry Itliong and Philip Vera Cruz, or keep its current name.
According to the school district's meeting agenda, the Facility Names Committee has advanced two names to be considered for the school: Alvarado Middle School and Itliong-Veracruz Middle School.
The naming committee, comprised of several community members appointed by school board members, recommended the names at a Feb. 13 meeting, according to the district. Committee members present during the Feb. 13 meeting included Nicholas Concepcion, Ben Menor, Jenniefer Nemecek, Jatinder Sal, Ivan Santos, Robert Singer and Pam Sison.
The issue has since divided the community, and groups both for and against the name change will be holding rallies this evening.
According to Kaisahan, a local social justice advocacy group, a solidarity rally will be held at the James Logan High School parking lot at 6 p.m. in support of changing the school’s name to Itliong-Veracruz Middle School. Organizers are asking supporters to bring flags, signs and shirts promoting diversity.
Similarly, community group (Old) Alvarado United will be holding a rally on the sidewalks in front of the district office to demand the school not be renamed. The rally will also be held at 6 p.m. The group is asking those who want to keep the name to stand together with signs and wear AMS colors (green and yellow) or AMS Cougar clothing.
Those supporting the name change say it will be a significant milestone in American history as it would be the first school named after Filipino Americans.
“We are not just trying to rename a facility, we are trying to instill a strong sense of self,” said Erica Viray-Santos, a San Leandro teacher and former New Haven teacher who has helped spearhead support for the name change, at a March 19 meeting. "This is not just Filipino history, it’s American history."
Kaisahan outlines in detail more reasons for pushing for the name change in a post on their Facebook page.
Those against the name change argue that renaming the school is not an “extraordinary circumstance” as outlined in the board’s naming policy and that a change would be a blow to Union City’s history.
“[We] recognize what the Filipino community is doing and respect that, but feel the history of the area should not be taken away in such a manner,” Josheph Garcia, an (Old) Alvarado United member, told Patch in a previous interview.
Meanwhile, some residents and members of the Alvarado Middle School Site council are calling foul on the district for a lack of public discourse prior to the board greenlighting a name change at their Jan. 15 meeting.
Members of the AMS SSC took the liberty to launch an online survey to get the community’s sentiments regarding the name change last week, but were snubbed when school officials asked people to disregard the SSC’s efforts.
Despite only being online for 27 hours, the survey received more than 200 responses, an overwhelming number of which was against changing the school’s name.
At board meetings last month, a majority of the school board members seemed to lean toward supporting the name change.
“New Haven Unified celebrates diversity and equality. These ideas are the pillars of strength the district prides itself,” board president Linda Canlas said at a March 19 meeting. “This community is ready to make room for others that have been forgotten and have been invisible.”
Board members Michelle Matthews and Jonas Dino backed Canlas, with Dino adding that being the first district in the country with a school named after Filipino Americans was “extraordinary” in itself.
Board members Michael Ritche and Sarabjit Cheema were open to exploring other options, such as erecting statues or renaming a different facility after the Filipino American leaders as their names have been discussed for various New Haven sites in the past.
Tonight’s meeting will be held at 7:30 p.m. at the district office at 34200 Alvarado-Niles Rd.
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