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Board majority prefers renaming schools for people, not places

Six names still under consideration for Jordan and Terman middle schools

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A majority on the Palo Alto school board said Tuesday night that they prefer renaming two middle schools after people rather than after geographic locations, arguing that to not do so would be a missed educational and inspirational opportunity.

The school board discussed a committee's recommendation for eight new names for Terman and Jordan middle schools: six people and two locations. The board voted to rename the schools last year because Lewis Terman and David Starr Jordan advocated eugenics, an early 20th-century movement that promoted the reproduction of genetic traits of particular races over others. (Terman Middle School is also co-named for Lewis Terman's son, Frederick Emmons Terman, a Silicon Valley pioneer who did not espouse eugenics; however the school board has declined to retain Fred Terman's name in the school name.)

The committee has recommended the following individuals as possible names: Ellen Fletcher, Frank Greene Jr., William Hewlett, Edith Johnson, Fred Yamamoto and Anna Zschokke. The geographic alternatives are Adobe Creek for Terman and Redwood Grove for Jordan. (Read more about the names here.)

The advisory committee expressed a "strong" preference for naming the middle schools after people.

"We recognize the risks this represents," said Leland Levy, co-chair of the advisory committee and former Palo Alto mayor. "People are never perfect, but we believe the ability of individual lives to inspire our youth should not be lightly passed over."

Board Vice President Jennifer DiBrienza and membrs Melissa Baten Caswell and Terry Godfrey agreed. Up until Tuesday, Godfrey said she had preferred geographic names, but the committee's presentation persuaded her.

"After listening to your presentation about why it's important to have real flesh-and-blood people who aren't perfect be role models to our kids, I'm convinced: That's right," she said. "I'm a little embarrassed I was so committed to location names until earlier today."

Board member Todd Collins and President Ken Dauber disagreed, suggesting that the district instead install memorial plaques at the middle schools that honor the six recommended individuals and other Palo Altans in the future.

"School names, I think, have very limited impact on students," Collins said. "While I understand the instinct because I think we want to honor people, I see a downside in choosing names, and I think there's a large portion of community that would like to see us not choose names and never have to revisit this issue again."

Dauber said he found the location names preferable to having to choose two out of six names. He argued that naming the schools after "prominent natural features" would be a positive decision that communicates the importance of the environment. Adobe Creek runs behind Terman's campus and Jordan is home to more than a dozen redwood trees, according to the committee.

Particular support has emerged on the committee and in the community for Yamamoto, a Japanese-American Palo Alto High School graduate who was in the Japanese internment camps during World War II. Committee member Sara Armstrong described him as a war hero whose "response to injustice and discrimination was not bitterness or hatred but rather a sense of purpose," including an immediate enlistment in the U.S. Army. Yamamoto was killed in action just after his 26th birthday.

Terry Fletcher, the daughter of Ellen Fletcher, urged the board to "right the wrongs of the past" by naming the two schools after people who were affected by the eugenics movement, including Yamamoto; her mother, a Holocaust survivor who became a public servant and bicycle advocate in Palo Alto; and others.

"It's about time to give our students the opportunity to learn about the real heroes and heroines of our community," she said.

Trustees agreed to weigh in in more detail on the specific names at its next meeting, on March 27, when they will take action.

In other business Tuesday, the board approved the creation of a community committee that will advise the board during the final stages of its search for a new superintendent. Trustees agreed that each of them can nominate two people to the committee, the interim human-resource directors will nominate five staff members and the interim superintendent will work with student leaders to nominate two students, one from each high school.

The committee will meet confidentially with final candidates and develop a list of strengths and concerns to present to the board. They will not have any voting power; the board makes the final decision. The board is in the midst of a national search for a permanent replacement for former superintendent Max McGee, who left the district in September.

The board also decided against approving an upcoming school service trip to Tijuana, Mexico, due to safety concerns in the area. The teacher leading the trip, Gunn High School's Dave Deggeller, noted that other cities have the same travel warnings, including Paris, France, and Palo Alto's sister city, Oaxaca, and questioned the "future of service" in the district given the board's decision. The trip to Tijuana has run for 20 years, he said.

All but one board member voted against approving the trip. Trustee Jennifer DiBrienza abstained.

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Comments

128 people like this
Posted by opinion
a resident of Palo Alto High School
on Mar 14, 2018 at 10:37 am

Sometimes I wonder if Todd Collins and Ken Dauber are the
only Board members with solid common sense.


66 people like this
Posted by Teresa
a resident of Palo Verde
on Mar 14, 2018 at 11:05 am

Why oh why MUST these schools be named for people......are they really an inspiration to middle schoolers???? In our dreams maybe, but in reality? Come on lets do the geographical thing, and yes we can put up plaques on the walls, to honor these pioneer, exceptional folks if we want. But lets take "choosing people" out of the mix, because you can please some of the people some of the time, but not all of the people , all of the time!!!!!


80 people like this
Posted by Resident
a resident of Another Palo Alto neighborhood
on Mar 14, 2018 at 11:10 am

"People are not perfect"

Exactly. Jordan and Terman were not perfect, but they were visionary in many fields other than eugenics.

It is about time to understand that times change and we can't judge history by present day morality. We can't even begin to think what future may generations may say about us.

It is much better to leave the names alone and let the students learn that nobody is perfect, ever.

Such a shame that a learning opportunity will be lost and the present generation will look on past heroes as flawed individuals rather than all the pioneering work they did. What a legacy!!!!


89 people like this
Posted by Barron Park dad
a resident of Barron Park
on Mar 14, 2018 at 11:14 am

I seriously doubt that school names based on people much, if any, "inspiration for our students".

Plus, I don't want the potential of having to revisit this issue again down the road.


6 people like this
Posted by Brian
a resident of Duveneck/St. Francis
on Mar 14, 2018 at 11:22 am

Winston Smith would be an apt name for one of the schools.


33 people like this
Posted by parent
a resident of Terman Middle School
on Mar 14, 2018 at 11:31 am

We think Mr Yamamoto and Mrs Fletcher would be fantastic choices. They are role models in many different ways.


68 people like this
Posted by Kya
a resident of Midtown
on Mar 14, 2018 at 11:35 am

Todd Collins and Ken Dauber are the only school board members to show good common sense. This whole issue has made an issue out of a non-issue, plus generated poor goodwill to alums from Jordan and Terman. I have a good friend who is EXTREMELY upset over the renaming schools decision. Don’t expect him to leave any $$ to his Junior High when you have a fund raising campaign. Just name the schools after their prominent natural features! Revisionist history will come to visit us again.


Like this comment
Posted by Mark Weiss
a resident of Terman Middle School
on Mar 14, 2018 at 11:39 am

If the schools must be renamed I prefer naming them for former students of our schools, but someone more recent than Mr. Yamamoto. None of the last 50,000 graduates of our schools have earned that distinction?


8 people like this
Posted by Miss
a resident of Midtown
on Mar 14, 2018 at 11:43 am

I'm just hoping that the women on the board will read this and catch on to the fact that these schools must not be given names of people.

I hope that the board members will make clear that future generations should feel free to rename schools in their turn, based on whatever values they have at that time. Such a concession would go some way at least to showing a little understanding of how things do change over time.


26 people like this
Posted by Former Student
a resident of Mayfield
on Mar 14, 2018 at 11:55 am

I think the school that really should be renamed is Gunn High School. What an ominous and inappropriate name for a school, especially one which has been haunted by student suicides.

Nixon Elementary is also an embarrassment for students; although it is not named after the shamed president, most of the children did not feel inspired by the fact that Lucile M. Nixon was a former superintendent.

Then, there is Jail S. (J.L.S.)


13 people like this
Posted by DT North
a resident of Downtown North
on Mar 14, 2018 at 12:07 pm

[Post removed due to same poster using multiple names]


18 people like this
Posted by parent
a resident of Terman Middle School
on Mar 14, 2018 at 12:11 pm

@Mark Weiss - what could possibly be wrong with name a school after a local World War 2 hero? Lots of WW2 veterans are still alive, so this is not ancient or forgotten history.

A good reason not to name a school after a more recent graduate is that most of them are still alive. While I am unaware of the legality, I am also not aware of any local school that was named after a living person. I do know that the Federal government prohibits the use of living people for money or stamps.


52 people like this
Posted by DuvMom
a resident of Crescent Park
on Mar 14, 2018 at 12:48 pm

Some people never learn. Please, do not be silly and name the schools after people. Leave the names as they are OR name them after places. I can't believe this is even being discussed.


4 people like this
Posted by Stew Pid
a resident of Community Center
on Mar 14, 2018 at 1:02 pm

[Post removed.]


10 people like this
Posted by Roger
a resident of Evergreen Park
on Mar 14, 2018 at 1:11 pm

[Post removed.]


42 people like this
Posted by History Buff
a resident of Community Center
on Mar 14, 2018 at 1:29 pm

Glad somebody mentioned the Chinese connection. This committee had ZERO Asian people on it - with the schools almost half Asian, this was a huge miss.

The Chinese are the largest Asian ethnic group in Palo Alto by far (followed by Indians) - and this committee could only come up with a Japanese name? Do people realize that Japan invaded and pillaged China in the 1930s (not to mention the Japanese colonization of Korea through 1945)?

[Portion removed.]

This is a botched job. Bring on the geo names, please!


16 people like this
Posted by bike commuter
a resident of Charleston Meadows
on Mar 14, 2018 at 2:07 pm

Just rename Terman to the Fred Terman, who has nothing to do with the eugenics, and Jordan to Michael Jordan, it can be the Berkeley stat professor or the Bulls Jordan. So Terman will remain Terman and Jordan remains Jordan.


65 people like this
Posted by No Yamamoto MS
a resident of Downtown North
on Mar 14, 2018 at 2:14 pm

If Terman can't be named after Fred Terman because of Lewis Terman then we have established we are running this process on a basis of guilt by association of having the same last name. In that case allow me to introduce you to Isoroku Yamamoto - the Commander and Chief for Japan during WWII who planned and carried out the attack on Pearl Harbor, killing more than 2400 Americans. No Yamamoto Middle School for Palo Alto.


43 people like this
Posted by YP
a resident of Crescent Park
on Mar 14, 2018 at 2:18 pm

YP is a registered user.

I can’t wait to hear the final decision and vitriol from the community as not everyone will be pleased. This project is a huge waste of time and money but has also created needless angst and division in our community. Thank god my kids are almost out of pausd and my financial support has stopped years ago because of misguided board decisions and priorities such as this one.


4 people like this
Posted by Jordan parent
a resident of Downtown North
on Mar 14, 2018 at 2:28 pm

[Post removed due to same poster using multiple names]


33 people like this
Posted by parent
a resident of Terman Middle School
on Mar 14, 2018 at 2:38 pm

Mr Yamamoto was an American. All you people that are attacking him because of his ancestors or because someone in a different country had a similar name are sounding more than a little racist. I am not Japanese, but all these attacks are making me support this choice more and more.


18 people like this
Posted by YP
a resident of Crescent Park
on Mar 14, 2018 at 2:48 pm

YP is a registered user.

everyone will have strong feelings and be upset their choice is not the one [Portion removed]. Stop this nonsense and name them after trees .


4 people like this
Posted by Another Parent
a resident of Crescent Park
on Mar 14, 2018 at 2:52 pm

BTW, David Starr Jordan LOVED the Japanese. It was the one Asian "race" he admired and respected. Yes Yamamoto was an American, but specifically a Japanese-American - that's why he is being proposed.


25 people like this
Posted by bike commuter
a resident of Charleston Meadows
on Mar 14, 2018 at 2:53 pm

Why can't the city sell the naming right to some company? Then we have the money for trenching.


49 people like this
Posted by Annette
a resident of College Terrace
on Mar 14, 2018 at 3:35 pm

Annette is a registered user.

Much of this community, not just parents with children in the PAUSD, has been touched by the ceaseless turmoil caused by serious problems and failures and resignations and turnover, etc. in the PAUSD. This re-naming issue is divisive. If the decisions about it were being made by a strong Board that enjoyed broad support and confidence of the community, controversial decisions such as this one would be more well received by those who do not agree with the outcome.

I do not recall a time in the past 37 years with as many serious schools-related issues as exist now. I suggest delaying further action on this issue until more serious matters are addressed and possibly until the composition of the School Board changes.


26 people like this
Posted by Concerned Observer
a resident of Old Palo Alto
on Mar 14, 2018 at 4:43 pm

Concerned Observer is a registered user.

Leave it to the renaming committee and school board to come up with a name that is unpronounceable and unspellable. Zschokke ??? I'm sure there is some deservedness here, but c'mon. Can you see it on a P.E. T-shirt or basketball jersey? Zschokke Zebras,Zebus,Zonkeys or Zorses, perhaps ???


15 people like this
Posted by Curmudgeon
a resident of Downtown North
on Mar 14, 2018 at 7:30 pm

Curmudgeon is a registered user.

"This project is a huge waste of time and money ..."

To the contrary--it is a welcome distraction at 25 Churchill from the real problems in a school district that is being egregiously mismanaged at great expense.


3 people like this
Posted by Curmudgeon
a resident of Downtown North
on Mar 14, 2018 at 7:34 pm

Curmudgeon is a registered user.

"Zschokke ??? I'm sure there is some deservedness here, but c'mon. Can you see it on a P.E. T-shirt or basketball jersey? Zschokke Zebras,Zebus,Zonkeys or Zorses, perhaps ???"

Schooling is wasted on some people.


Like this comment
Posted by TermanMom
a resident of Terman Middle School
on Mar 17, 2018 at 9:40 am

TermanMom is a registered user.

I understand the concern about humans not being perfect, but neither are names. Adobe Systems is named after Adobe Creek.

Do we want our school names associated with businesses/publicly traded companies? It's also the same with HP.


5 people like this
Posted by C. Zschokke
a resident of College Terrace
on Mar 17, 2018 at 11:56 am

C. Zschokke is a registered user.

Concerned Observer and Cumedgeon,

Zschokke is a pretty cool name. Kids would love a jersey with a big "Z" on it. Do some research on what Anna Zschokke did for Palo Alto and you'll find the kids would likely wear the name with pride.

She was after all the first resident of Palo Alto, started the first school out of the kitchen of her home, then proceeded to purchase the land at Channing and Webster to house a bigger school for the children of Palo Alto. She was also the town historian which chronicled all that happened in Palo Alto as well as put together the statistical data to start PAUSD. She earned the title of "Mother of Palo Alto Schools" for a reason. To not have a school named after her is disgraceful.

And by the way Zschokke is pronounced SHOCK-KEY. Not so hard now is it.


9 people like this
Posted by Monica Yeung Arima
a resident of Professorville
on Mar 18, 2018 at 7:06 am

Monica Yeung Arima is a registered user.

I favor the renaming of the school after Fred Yamamoto. Story of Internment: Fred Yamamoto from Paly’s Verde. Web Link. His story resembling many to my husband’s dad, James Arima.

My son is a Paly 2013, a 4th generation Japanese American. He went to school from K-12 at PAUSD. My husband was a Stanford grad of 1972, my brother-in-law in 1970 and my late mother-in-law got her Phd from Stanford at the age of 65. Both of my in-law rested at Fort Ord Veterans Cemetery now. James died young at the age of 62 and my mother-in-law lived till she was 93.

James was in the US Army before WWII. He was never drafted into the Japanese internment camp but his parents and his brother did. For the same reason, the family was parted different ways.

For selfish reasons, I like people to remember this piece of history, so history does not repeat itself. Fred Yamamoto is a symbolic symbol in remembering this piece of history. Many of these detailed history was not included in the children’s history text book. May be in the supplementary text books. Internment of Japanese Americans Web Link.

Same with the history or story behind the Chinese Exclusion Acts. Web Link That need to change.

Thank you for the committee to recognize Fred Yamamoto as a young hero of Paly and share with us his short life of 26. I salute to your effort at your selection.

There are many in the community that will come for a discussion perhaps to oppose such recommendation. Please come to voice your opinion or write to your board at board@pausd.org. Don’t punish Fred Yamamoto because of his last name resemblance of others. Don’t punish Fred Yamamoto because he is Japanese American.

RSN (Recommending School Names) Advisory Committee Meeting
March 19, 2018, Monday
7:00 ~ 8:00pm
Conference Room A
25 Churchill Avenue

Final decision will be made at the next PAUSD board meeting on March 27 6:30pm-10pm. Whatever the result is, I respect the committee’s effort and accept the Board’s decision respectfully.


6 people like this
Posted by stanhutchings
a resident of Old Palo Alto
on Mar 18, 2018 at 9:01 pm

stanhutchings is a registered user.

Some people never learn because they are intellectually challenged, others are worse off: "Insanity is doing the same thing over and over again and expecting different results."
Which category describes the Committee and the School Board:
He who knows not and knows not that he knows not is a fool; avoid him.
He who knows not and knows that he knows not is a student; teach him.
He who knows and knows not that he knows is asleep; wake him.
I think it's "knows not and knows not that he knows not"; unfortunately, we are stuck with them and cannot avoid them.


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