Stephen Wall, Staff Writer
Posted: 03/13/2009 03:04:03 PM PDT
Grand Terrace: High School No. 3 finally has a name.
The Colton school board voted 5-1 on Thursday to name Grand Terrace's new high school after longtime Colton resident Ray Abril, Jr.
Patt Haro voted no. Marge Mendoza-Ware was absent.
The vote upset many Grand Terrace residents who waged a grass-roots campaign to name the school after their city.
"I wish they would have gone with the will of the people," said Ed Gregor, a retired Bloomington High School teacher who lives in Grand Terrace.
The $82 million high school is expected to open in September 2011 at the corner of Main and Taylor streets.
The Colton Joint Unified School District last month asked the public to come up with nominations for the new school. Seventy-three different names were submitted.
Grand Terrace High School was the winner, receiving 124 of the 365 nominations. Ray Abril or Ray Abril, Jr. High School came in fourth place, garnering 17 votes.
A large contingent of Grand Terrace residents came to the meeting to try to influence the board's decision. Eight speakers favored naming the school after the city. Their comments were greeted by applause and cheers.
Grand Terrace Councilman Walt Stanckiewitz told the board that elected officials must follow the wishes of voters.
"If you're not going to consider the results of your request for votes, why did you ask the public to participate?" Stanckiewitz said.
As a compromise, Stanckiewitz suggested naming the school Grand Terrace High School, but dedicating it in Abril's honor.
Abril, 76, served on the Colton school board from 1973 to 2001.
Board member Robert Armenta, Jr. called Abril a positive role model who made "a significant and long-term difference" for all students in the district.
"While I can certainly understand the thinking on both sides of the `what to name the high school argument,' it is my belief that our schools are for our students," Armenta said.
Gil Navarro, a San Bernardino County school board member, spoke in support of Abril.
"We need more role models for Latinos who are the majority of this district," said Navarro, whose remarks were booed by members of the audience. "This is not about a city. This is about naming a school after someone who has contributed to the school district."
Several Grand Terrace residents vowed Friday to fight to rename the high school.
Wendy Baker, who lives in Grand Terrace and is the mother of a seventh-grader in the Colton school district, called the board's decision "a slap in the face" of Grand Terrace.
The cities of San Bernardino, Redlands, Fontana and Colton have high schools named after them, she noted.
"I am very sad," Baker said in an e-mail to board members. "You could have named the library or the gym after this person. Instead you took Grand Terrace's identity away."