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Attempt to rename Cesar Chavez Jr. High fails
The Ceres Unified School Board refused to consider picking another name other than Cesar Chavez Junior High School on Thursday evening.

Members of the community expressed outrage over the board's pick of the controversial farmworker's union leader's name for Ceres' third junior high school. The criticism prompted Ceres School Board member Eric Ingwerson to request that the controversial topic be revisited. Mike Welsh seconded it.

Ingwerson's proposal for name reconsideration failed on a 2-5 vote last Thursday.

"I believe this decision brings this process to a close," said Ingwerson after the meeting. "Certainly, I'm disappointed. But we must move forward in a positive way and stay together as a community."

Ingwerson and Mike Welsh voted for reconsideration. Trustees Edgar Romo, Jim Kinard, Teresa Guerrero, Faye Lane and Betty Davis rebuffed the notion.

The Ceres School Board voted unanimously in May to name Junior High #3 after the late Chavez, the controversial labor leader and civil rights activist. Critics of the choice say the board did not stick to its policy in naming schools after geographical areas of Ceres, or local residents who've made an impact on either schools or the city. The policy resulted in the district naming schools for local persons, including Walter White, Carroll Fowler, Mae Hensley, Joel Hidahl, Virginia Parks, Sam Vaughn, M. Robert Adkison, and the families of Caswell, Sinclear, La Rosa, and Berryhill. In the recent naming, a number of residents suggested the name of long-time Ceres resident Wayne Salter.

Ingwerson and Welsh both explained why they had a change of heart.

"Many people of Ceres have contacted me during the last few weeks to express their disappointment with the board's decision," said Ingwerson. "I couldn't ignore their voices.

"Cesar Chavez is a national hero to many and it shows by the support he has here and the many schools, parks and buildings named after him up and down the state of California. However, we have many local heroes who have had a positive hands-on impact on our school district and our community. The naming of schools is our opportunity to recognize those individual efforts. It is certainly not my intention to offend anyone in asking that we reconsider the naming of the Junior High No. 3 nor do I believe that the entire board intended to offend anyone in taking this new direction."

Welsh received opinions from more than 50 of his constituents.

"I don't want to sound wishy-washy," he said. "The bottom line is I owed it to the people that I talked with who disagreed with what we had done. I'm glad it's over. It's hard because it's a very delicate situation."

Just about every seat was filled during the two-hour meeting at the district headquarters.

Approximately 21 people participated in the public comment section, including Ceres residents Becki Barton-Nicholes, Tom Cooper, Pat Cousins, David Duran Diaz, John Ervin, Irving Gilbert, Alyssa Godinez, Frank Olide, Tim Robinson, Magdalena Robles, Maria Ruiz and Mary Jane Scheuber, Modesto's Jeff Borden, John Haarsma, Yvette Huizar, Wendy Perez Jones, Lorraine Nilson, Christian Ochoa, Guillermo Ochoa, Max Wigt, and Grayson's John Mataka.

Lane likened the political pressure from critics as "bullying."

"We as a board are being bullied," Lane stated before taking action. "I do not take to being bullied. I won't be changing my vote. I've made up my mind and I feel that there are more important things to do besides worrying about a school being named."

Added Hanline: "It's important but it shouldn't be a divider of our community."