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Do we really need another school named after Chavez?
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For years the Ceres Unified School District has made a practice of naming its schools after local people who have had an impact on the education of Ceres children.

When the district recently built five new schools, it chose the names of Adkison, Berryhill, Sinclear, Hidahl and La Rosa. In the past other schools were named after educational giants in Ceres including Mae Hensley, Walter White, Sam Vaughn, and Virginia Parks.

So the choosing of the name of Cesar Chavez for the naming of a Ceres junior high not only breaks precedent but shows an incredible lack of imagination. It's also very unnecessary for the Valley is replete with Cesar Chavez memorial names, including boulevards, bridges, a number of schools in California (Davis, Palo Alto, and San Francisco) as well as parks and buildings outside of the state.

In naming the school, CUSD Supt. Walt Hanline said "Chavez is a recognized national figure. He is a man that sacrificed greatly for what he believed in. We're sending a message to the Hispanic students in our nation that anything is possible. It doesn't matter what your heritage or ethnicity is."

Trustee Edgar Romo had on his list - beside Chavez - Walt Hanline, Chavez, Betty Davis, Eastgate and Jerry Panella. But he said he decided to choose Chavez "because he left behind a highly-respected legacy."

It doesn't make much sense to me to go to great lengths to reach outside of the Ceres area to pick a commonly honored statewide figure. There still are plenty of educators in Ceres' past to choose from. When he passed away on April 23, 1993, Chavez was president of the United Farm Workers of America, AFL-CIO. While many have hailed Cesar Chavez as somewhat of a hero for leading the first farm workers' union in U.S. history, he did have his detractors. Chavez may have crusaded for the rights of farm workers, but he was a divisive figure with a lot of Valley residents, particularly farmers. Critics with less enthusiasm for labor unions, believe he was overrated and not even deserving of a state holiday in his name.

I am somewhat in the middle. While his convictions led him to great sacrifices, I don't see how yet naming another item after him does him any great honor.

Since they were reaching outside of Ceres, the CUSD board might have picked the name of famous Latino educator Jaime Escalante (1930- ) who battled drugs, dropouts, crime, and gangs to teach L.A. area kids to make their own success. His life was depicted in the movie Stand and Deliver.

Last week's choice sets a new precedent. Now Ceres schools could adopt the names of national figures, but I suppose we'll never see a George W. Bush Junior High School as long as the current board is picking names.

I, for one, however, hope that CUSD sticks with its ways of choosing local names for its schools. Anyone in the country can have a George Washington Elementary School but not a Berryhill Elementary School.

How do you feel? Let Jeff know at