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Letters to the Editor published on July 8, 2009
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Where was input before name picked?

Editor, Ceres Courier,

Recently, I received an e-mail from a constituent within my Trustee Area (District 2) concerning the naming of Cesar Chavez Junior High School. In the e-mail, the writer expressed dismay that the CUSD Board would "select the name of such a divisive and polarizing figure over local people who have contributed so much to our local community." Following is my response regarding this concern:

Electing to name a school in honor of a celebrated leader, be it Cesar Chavez or Ronald Reagan, is a new direction (for Ceres schools). I recognize that the Board's choice to take this new direction will naturally bring forth a range of opinions. I can also imagine that, because of this new direction, future schools may be named after national heroes and leaders who are clearly acknowledged in the history of our country, and whose impact has been felt throughout our community.

To provide context to our most recent decision, each of the names and recommendations received were, in my opinion, deserving of consideration. In each case, the decision was difficult and took into account both the material presented on each recommendation and the board members' knowledge of the individuals. The actual decisions made to name the three schools involved many factors - a primary factor being our personal knowledge of those recommended.

I would like to quote the minutes of the June 11, 2009 Board Meeting:

"Dr. Hanline reiterated that public input has been sought on several occasions, beginning at the Feb. 5, 2009 board meeting when the board set the process to be followed in naming the schools, and continuing with the May 7 board meeting (the first meeting following the April 20 due date for recommendation forms), and the May 21 Study Session and board meeting, at which the trustees took action to name the schools. Members of the public were not proactive in voicing their concerns at any of the meetings, until after the Board took action."

For me, it was very disappointing - particularly since it was well known and communicated in the media that we were naming schools - that no one attended the meeting to provide their input and reactions to the names submitted. Had they done so, the ultimate decisions may have been different.

I cannot discount your concern regarding the role that Cesar Chavez played in impacting agriculture. He was controversial. I must share that our board, as a whole, believes strongly in the need to recognize the impact that Latinos have had on our community and the benefit that the naming of this school may have on young Latinos reaching for their dreams. Like any strong leader - be it Cesar Chavez or Ronald Reagan - they are human and they made decisions that were controversial. The point I am trying to make is that Cesar Chavez is recognized by the Latino community as a hero and, as such, his name was worth consideration.

In any process involving a seven-member elected board, there is give and take on the pros and cons of each recommendation. This is why our community members who are having difficulty, after the fact, needed to be involved before the fact. Such give and take did take place in the board meetings, without community voices being presented. Each board member ranked their top five names. In my case, Cesar Chavez was not on my list. Yet, the process resulted in the board coming together, as a team, and approving three names. As an ex-baseball player, I believe that once a team decision is made, we need to execute the play.

In conclusion, I recognize that you disagree with the decision made. I would ask for you to understand that to go back and revisit the decision would result in creating a governance precedent that would be unhealthy for our organization. Additionally, taking such an action would also deeply divide those who are in opposition to one another. My hope is that the words of Burl Condit are heard: That he was proud of our community members who spoke at the Board meeting and who did so in a respectful manner.

In the context of all of the crises facing farming, our community, and our country, I believe that this issue needs to be put behind us, and that reinventing the past would create far more division than moving forward.

Mike Welsh,

CUSD District 2 Trustee

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Letters to the editor will be considered for publication but must be signed with the author's name, address and telephone number. Letters should contain 250 words or less and be void of libelous statements. Letters should be sent to: The Ceres Courier, P.O. Box 7, Ceres, CA 95307. Letters may also be emailed to