What is in the name of a school? This group knows it can be complicated.
As San Diego Unified builds a 500-student elementary school campus in Mission Valley next fall, a group of volunteers are reviewing several proposed names that will honor the history of the community or highlight some influential people.
The 15-member School Names Committee plays an advisory role to the San Diego Unified School Board, reviewing name suggestions and making recommendations.
It has been around for years, but recent public interest in school names has sparked efforts to improve the San Diego Unified naming process, district officials said recently.
“School names should reflect the values and diversity of a community,” said committee chair Lidia S. Martinez. “The committee is committed to fairness and transparency, and we are working hard to improve the school name process, building on recent name changes to create a more inclusive school district and city. “
This spring, the group was involved in naming a common-use park in honor of Fannie and William Payne, who were black educators at San Diego Unified.
Also this year, the group was involved when San Diego Unified changed Serra High School to Canyon Hills High and Lindbergh-Schweitzer Elementary School to Clairemont Canyon Academy.
Lindbergh / Schweitzer Elementary School was renamed after some community members mentioned that the two namesakes expressed anti-Semitic or racist views.
And Father Junípero Serra, a leader of the Catholic missionary system in California, has embodied many times of oppression for Native Americans, officials said during discussions of the name change.
This decision met with more resistance. In July, a group of residents and a religious rights group sued the district in an attempt to overturn the school’s name change.
District officials said they wanted to make the school designation process more transparent and inclusive. With the new Mission Valley campus, the committee generated a list of proposed names and launched a community survey to gather feedback.
Some of the names suggested are
- Nipaquay Elementary, which recognizes the Kumeyaay village of Nipawai / Nipaquai that existed in the present-day Mission Valley
- Quarry Falls Elementary, which is linked to the quarry and mining area of the community
- Elementary school of the river
- Tony Gwynn Elementary, who recognizes the Padres Hall of Famer
- Dolores Huerta Elementary, honoring co-founder of the United Farm Workers Association
- Roberto R. Alvarez Elementary, which honors the student who, at the age of 12, won the country’s first case of school desegregation in Lemon Grove
Members of the community have until October 7 to provide feedback on the proposed names through an online survey.
Martinez, who retired after a 30-year career as a community outreach manager at Southwest Airlines, is joined on the committee by several community leaders, including Olympia Beltran, with the Kanap Kuahan Coalition; Ken Seaton-Msemaji, Chairman of the Board of Directors of Cesar Chavez Services Clubs, and Shane Harris, President of the People’s Justice Association.
“While the school names may seem minimal, this is another layer of equity that I look forward to helping remove in our area. A child deserves to have their community reflected in their school name, ”Harris said in a recent release.
Committee members were appointed by former superintendent Cindy Marten and approved by the school board in January.