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Riverside schools renaming policy aims to reflect city’s diversity – Press Enterprise

A policy that could lead to renaming some Riverside schools for minorities and women who have made significant contributions has been approved by Riverside school leaders.

Also, the Riverside Unified School District will begin an effort to name new schools and other existing educational facilities — football stadiums, gymnasiums and libraries — after a diverse group of local, regional and national heroes.

The policy, adopted unanimously by the Riverside school board Thursday, Sept. 2, comes as the district prepares to build new elementary schools in Riverside’s Casa Blanca and Eastside neighborhoods and in Highgrove, just outside the city limits.

“We want to reflect the community that the district serves,” board President Tom Hunt said Friday, Sept. 3.

Right now, Hunt said, the names of the district’s 50 schools do not reflect the diversity of the Inland Empire’s largest city. It has one high school named after an African-American — civil rights icon Martin Luther King Jr. — and one elementary school named after a Latino, late UC Riverside Chancellor Tomás Rivera.

“If I do my math right, that’s 4%,” Hunt told his colleagues, according to a videotape of the meeting.

On Friday, Hunt added that only three of the 50 schools are named after women.

“We’re a little bit behind the times here,” he said.

The policy was crafted by a committee comprised of school board members Brent Lee and Angelo Farooq, who met several times since March and brought the plan to the full board for discussion Thursday. Among other things, the policy states that facilities named for people should recognize those who “played a critical role or contributed to society in ways that supported the success and well-being of the individuals who live in Riverside County, California or the United States, now and in the future.”

The proposal also stated that “the Board of Education will consider renaming facilities to reflect the mission, vision and/or values of the district.”

Board member Kathy Allavie proposed adding a phrase saying the board will consider renaming facilities while taking the history of an existing school name into account. The board agreed to that.

“Names are very important in a community,” Allavie said. “But they are also very important to families — families who’ve had parents go through schools, siblings go through schools, children go through schools. When a school is 50, 60 years old it carries a lot of history and it’s not something you want to change the name of lightly.”

Allavie, mentioning the bitter battle a little more than two decades ago over naming a now-prominent Riverside high school after King, said the board should retain the final say in the matter, while inviting suggestions from the community. When King was named, some spoke out against the moniker.

At Thursday’s meeting, a few speakers asked the board to bestow the name Casa Blanca Elementary School upon the new campus to be built in the mostly-Latino community.

“I’ve heard others say that, ‘No, it’s a new school, we need to have a new name,’” said Cindy Mendoza-Collins, chair of the Casa Blanca Community Action Group. “That’s not what we want.”

“That school was taken away from us 50-some years ago,” Mendoza-Collins said. “We want the same name. We want it to represent the community that it is placed in.”

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