Mural depicting Philip Vera Cruz
and Larry Itliong in Los Angeles.
By Yari Nieves-Rivera and Paul Tran, Editors-in-Chief
Alvarado Middle School is having its name changed to honor Filipino-American heroes Philip Vera Cruz and Larry Itliong.
On May sixth, the Board of Education made a 3-2 decision to change the name of the school to commemorate the Filipino men who worked alongside Cesar Chavez, all of whom were labor leaders in the 1965 Delano Grape Strike. The idea, which was first proposed on January fifteenth, came after months of deliberation and opposition. This will be the first time in the United States that a school will be named after Filipino-Americans.
The idea has been in contention for more than thirteen years, and had already been rejected three times by the Board, before this year. The name change will occur no later than 2015, and will require at least $15,000, and could rise up to $26,000 to cover uniforms and textbooks. Community organizations have already raised up to take care of the costs of the process, and no money from the district will be used to sponsor the change.
Still, there have been no sign of any money being paid towards the project. It still not known whether or not the district will have to pay some of the money that the organizations will not be able to cover.
"[The decision] is part of a system that is profoundly broken. It is about misplaced priorities, considering the recent trouble the district has been in," said Valerie Garcia, English teacher at James Logan High School.
There is plenty of evidence to support these feelings. Last year, the Board of Education faced a ten million dollar deficit, and had to lay off more than eighty full-time positions. Furlough days also increased in the previous year. Whereas we only had six in the 2011-2012 school year, we had nine in this school year. The problems that face the district are major, and the idea to change the name came almost unexpectedly.
“It’s a neat idea, but it’s not the right time to change it,” Sarah Goulart, Logan Junior, explained. “I think [the name change] mainly focused on ethnicities, and it should be focused on individuals instead. It’s too sudden.”
One of the arguments against the name change is that it would only increase the tensions between the middle school and its rival, Cesar Chavez. An increase in crimes against Filipino-Americans has been seen since the changes’ first proposal. A Filipino-Owned business had been tagged with ‘Mex’ (above a crossed out ‘Filipino’) ‘Community’, ‘f--- Filipinos’, and the acronym for the middle school on the other side of the door. The tension has always been there between the two schools, and one of the main arguments for the change has been, to put it in simple words, “If they can do it, why can’t we?”.
There’s been peaceful protest as well. The day after the May sixth decision, a protest was held by the (Old) Alvarado United neighborhood group.
“[We] recognize what the Filipino community is doing and respect that, but feel the history of the area should not be taken away in such a manner,” said John Garcia, a member of the neighborhood group, to the Union Patch.
Although the decision to change the name had been unanimous at first, some board members changed their minds. Michael Ritchie, a new board member and a parent, explained his decision to vote against the new name. "We didn't follow a good process," he stated. "In order to make such a major decision, and after seeing quite a bit of opposition to the idea, I felt that it was important to collect more iput and essentially start over to find a worthy city location to name after the two important men."
Part of the argument against the change is that the policy in renaming public establishments was not followed. Board Policy F7310 states, “The renaming of existing schools or major facilities shall occur by the Board of Education only under extraordinary circumstances and after thorough study.” The Board has explicitly not done this, and the Alvarado Middle School School Site Council (AMS SSSC) helped by conducting a survey in their place. The outcome was that ninety-seven percent of the two hundred and one correspondents were against the name change. These numbers included faculty, students, and alumni of the middle school.
“It’s a waste of money,” Logan senior Susannah Lee said. “We have big problems to mull over as it is. It’s not like the school doesn’t already have a name.”
Alvarado Middle School’s society is very diverse, but the majority is Filipino. The students make up twenty-seven percent of the school population, very high in comparison to the other ethnicities. It is located in a predominantly Filipino neighborhood, and a majority of the students know how to speak either Pilipino or Tagalog.
This is a lot like Cesar Chavez Middle School, which is predominantly Hispanic and the majority of the students can speak Spanish. It is clear that these differences are what make the decision to change the name a lot easier to understand for many.
Larry Itliong and Philip Vera Cruz aren't outrageous leaders, either. They, like many who helped form the Labor Union, were forgotten. The movement is mostly seen as Chicano, when in reality, it was a multiethnic and cultural movement affecting most of the laborers.
The Kaisahan Project, based in Union City, is a group of people in the community whose goal is to make a positive social change. Strong supporters of the renaming, their facebook in the past few months has been focused on the process around it. They have made shirts and have organized rallies that have benefited the movement, and the money taken in from the shirts will be used for funding of the project.
When the change was announced on April sixteenth, the group took to their facebook page to thank the people who have supported them in their planning. Among the speakers at the meeting was Cesar Chavez's own son, Anthony Chavez Like many, he recognized the value of making the names be recognized.
More than one hundred and fifty students marched on May sixth to show their support for the name change, and clear retaliation to the opposition movements. While the name change stands to show the diversity of the community, weighing both its positives and negatives is a part of the process to change the name of a school that has been a part of the community for a very long time.
The school itself was named after a historical figure, Juan B. Alvarado, who governed Alta California while it was still under Mexican control. Supporters contend that there are already many things done in his honor, and that there is nothing in our community to commemorate the Filipinos that, in part, are the reason the city is so diverse.
The most controversial aspect of this new change is that it seems to split the people involved in the decision. The community, and the board members themselves, can't seem to decide if they want to change the name of the school. As Ritchie stated, it would be equally honorable if they named another facility after the Filipino Labor Leaders. Either way, the district is set on honoring these two people.
Students seem to be indecisive about the name change itself. While many agree that they deserve recognition, they can also see that the school already has a name. Most of them seem to be in the middle on the issue, seeing it isn't as big of a deal as teacher layoffs and budget cuts.
"Changing the name of a school doesn't affect its recognition," said Nathan Leal, Logan senior. "I'm impartial to the name change."
The school might not be named after the heroes, but on May sixth, it was decided that it would have its name changed. Seeing as Alvarado already had an elementary school named after him in the district, it would make sense for them to do so.
Petitions both for and against the name change have been posted online for those who wish to take part in the movement.