Protesters disrupt groundbreaking for new school
Debbie Pfeiffer Trunnell, Staff Writer
GRAND TERRACE - Angry residents booed and heckled school district officials at the groundbreaking for the Ray Abril High School on Saturday.
Around 200 people carrying signs, showed up at the site that will soon be transformed into a new school.
Many said they were still angry that the school board decided to name the school Ray Abril High School in honor of a former longtime board member, instead of for the city it will be housed in.
"It just makes sense that the high school would bear the name of the city it is in," said Jill Taylor-Anderson, as she carried a sign that read: For Unity: Colton High, Bloomington High, Grand Terrace High. "Colton residents are proud of Colton and and we are proud of Grand Terrace."
The Saturday protest was part of an ongoing controversy regarding the board's decision to name the $82 million high school, expected to open in September 2011 at Main and Taylor streets, for longtime Colton resident Ray Abril Jr.
In recent months, the Colton Joint Unified School District asked the public to come up with nominations for the new school and 73 names were submitted.
Grand Terrace High School was the winner, with Ray Abril or Ray Abril Jr. High School coming in fourth place.
But at a March meeting, attended by many outraged residents, the
board voted to name the school after Abril.
Despite the obvious disruption, the many officials attending the groundbreaking carried on with business as usual.
District Superintendent James A. Downs described the day as a joyous occasion.
And several board members praised Abril for his contributions to the district and community.
"I am very proud to name this school Ray Abril High School to tie it to a wonderful person who has given many years of service," said board member Frank Ibarra.
Abril also gave a cool and collected presentation, as many in the crowd yelled out "do the right thing Ray."
"I am very proud and humble and see this as a whole Abril family gain," he said.
Not all who stepped up to the podium showed support for the board's decision.
In the past, the Grand Terrace City Council has expressed dismay over the name selection for the school. Mayor Maryetta Ferre again expressed disappointment, before thanking everyone who worked to make it a reality.
At the conclusion of the groundbreaking, protester Wendy Baker tried to give a petition, signed by more than 1,000 residents, and a letter, asking him to reconsider, to Abril.
Abril politely refused to take it, but a family member stepped in and accepted it from Baker.
"We still hope that he will reconsider," said Baker. "If he doesn't we will take the next step, because this is in no way over."