Monday, April 13, 2009

{The Press Enterprise 4/2/2009}

School name choice snubs Grand Terrace

Naming a new high school after a man who dedicated much of his life to education is a commendable idea.
But the Colton school board's decision to name the long-awaited high school in Grand Terrace after former trustee Ray Abril Jr. disrespected overwhelming public sentiment that it be named after the city that will be its home.
It doesn't help that the board broke with tradition in doing so: The other two high schools in the district are named after the towns where they sit, Colton and Bloomington.
People are offended -- and no wonder.
The school district solicited suggestions from the community for the new school's name. Why bother to do that if you're just going to ignore majority opinion?
Nearly 400 people wrote letters and e-mails, made phone calls and spoke at public meetings in response to the request for suggestions.
Just 17 suggested naming the school after Abril.
According to the district's own reckoning, 124 favored calling it Grand Terrace High School; 57 people wanted to call it Blue Mountain High (Grand Terrace is nicknamed the Blue Mountain city).
Thirty-one others suggested some variation with "Terrace" in the title: Terrace Heights, Terrace Mountain, Terrace Vista and half a dozen more. Someone even suggested Honey Hills High, for the historic beekeepers' neighborhood at the foot of Blue Mountain.
Any of those would have given a nod to the city that has awaited a high school for two decades and now will host the district's technology magnet school.
But no. The board voted March 12 to name it after Abril, who served on the board for 28 years until 2001.
If the board wanted to honor an educator, it could have named the school for the late Robert E. DeGroff, a government teacher and speech/debate coach at Colton High, who received 64 votes.
The snub seems to be all anyone is talking about in Grand Terrace.
Mayor Maryetta Ferre told me Thursday she had fielded four phone calls about it that morning, and when she visited the fitness club and a nail salon the same day, the naming fiasco was on everyone's mind.
So why did board members flout public opinion and vote 5-1 to name the high school after Abril?
The only member who returned my call seeking comment was Patt Haro, who cast the sole vote against it.
Haro said she loves and respects Abril but thinks another venue would have been a better choice to name after him.
Grand Terrace has been waiting a long time for its high school and people made it clear they wanted it to be named for their city, she said. "I just think it's a slap in the face to them not to honor their wishes."
She's exactly right.
The district could have honored Abril by putting his name on the high school's library, gym or auditorium. Or it could have named one of the other future schools for him.
For that matter, it could have named the school district headquarters after him.
Any of those choices would have honored him without alienating Grand Terrace residents (and the many Colton residents who shared their perspective).
Now, when dignitaries break ground for the high school Saturday, folks are threatening to picket. If that happens, the Board of Education will see that its attempt to honor Abril has backfired.
It's too bad that what was meant to be an honor instead engendered so much ill feeling.
It would've been so easy to make a choice that pleased everyone.

Cassie MacDuff can be reached at 951-368-9470 or

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