Palo Alto

Controversy Surrounds Plan to Remove Cesar Chavez From East Palo Alto School's Name

Wiping away the legacy of civil rights leader Cesar Chavez.

That's what many in East Palo Alto now say a local school district would be doing if they follow through on an idea to rename the Cesar Chavez Academy.

The district says all its schools are being transformed to improve academic performance. But critics say, whatever the reason, it disrespects the memory of an icon.

Cesar Chavez's name on Thursday was still on the campus sign. The school used to be a kindergarten to eighth grade school. It is now about to become a robust middle school exclusively. And at the moment, the Chavez name is not part of the future plans here.

Chavez fought for civil rights until his death in 1993, and now has streets, parks and schools named after him.

The East Palo Alto school sign featuring Cesar Chavez has been up since soon after his death. But it may soon be coming down.

"I think it's absolutely ridiculous," said Ana Maria Pulido, a Ravenswood School District trustee. "I think its riduculous and its embarassing."

The middle school portion of the Chavez Academy campus was unoficially renamed Ravenswood during a districtwide restructuring a few years ago. And since this site will now become a middle school exclusively, there has been talk of dropping the Chavez name altogether and referring to the site solely as Ravenswood.

It is a proposal that has triggered an angry response from some, including a board member.

"I'm absolutely shocked," Pulido said. "Cesar Chavez is such a symbolic individual for the Latino community, and I think for many communities."

In a statement, the interim superintendent said the district is proud of having the Chavez name in its school community.

"We will do everything in our power to ensure his name and legacy remain in our district in order to provide future generations of students the opportunity to learn," the superintendent said in a statement.

But critics said that does not ensure a school will keep the Chavez name.

"Why do we have to be fighting over preserving such a legacy?" Pulido said. "Especially one that's so meaningful."

A big community meeting on the issue is scheduled for Thursday, Aug. 1, at the East Palo Alto Municipal Center.

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