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Central Unified School District’s new high school will be named after Justin Garza, the former head football coach at Central High School who lost his battle with cancer in 2017.

Four board members — board president Yesenia Carrillo and trustees Naindeep Singh Chann, Philip Cervantes, and Richard Solis — voted to name the school now under construction at Grantland and Ashlan avenues in northwest Fresno for Garza.

Board vice president Jason Paul and trustees Richard Atkins and Terry Cox voted to name the school Central North, a name that was preferred by an overwhelming majority of respondents to a district survey.

portrait of the late Justin Garza, who coached football at Central High in Fresno, California

— Justin Garza

Nearly 200 names were proposed, including former President Barack Obama, Fresno Mayor Lee Brand, and social media celebrity Lovely Peaches.

Cervantes said that although Central North elicited more support in the survey, much community support was expressed for naming the high school for Garza.

Support for Directional Name

Atkins said he was concerned about naming a facility for a specific person — even a “very fine gentleman” such as Garza — instead of choosing a more neutral name.

“You’re going to step on somebody’s toes, you’re going to pinch somebody’s butt, and it ain’t gonna look pretty in the end,” he said.

Cox said she had received several comments from residents who were not in favor of naming the school for Garza, who first taught at Central High in 1999 and was an assistant coach for football, track, and golf until 2004, when he left for another job. He later returned and was the head coach at Central until his illness forced him to resign in 2014.

Choosing a “directional” name such as Central North gives its students more latitude in crafting the school’s identity, she said.

“Central Unified has an amazing opportunity to embrace the power in a name. To name a school after a geographical location like Clovis Unified has done further divides neighborhoods. But to select a name that stands for more, a name that embraces community and diversity, that inspires passion and grit, would take a stance to set the tone for incoming students.” — Tosha Giuffrida

Carillo suggested amending the motion to name the school for Garza pending the completion of a background check.

Friends Say Garza is Worthy Namesake

Prior to the vote, Garza’s widow Regina thanked trustees for considering naming the new school for her husband.

Tosha Giuffrida, who said she was speaking on behalf of Garza’s friends, said his passion for education and student success was widely acknowledged, and his impact on the lives of his students and the community was profound.

“Central Unified has an amazing opportunity to embrace the power in a name. To name a school after a geographical location like Clovis Unified has done further divides neighborhoods,” she said. “But to select a name that stands for more, a name that embraces community and diversity, that inspires passion and grit, would take a stance to set the tone for incoming students.”

3 Responses

  1. Bill

    Lots of coaches and educators die one recently died while jogging – mowed down by a reckless driver who fled the scene and barely spent 1 year in prison after fleeing the scene. Gavin law is now named after this educator senselessly killed and is making a difference for other families and communities who’s loved ones are impacted by uneducated selfish people.
    Justin Garza I am sure was a good coach and cared about his students. I am not sure he or his death implemented policy change for all of society. Maybe a scholarship in his name or a fund to help other educators undergoing cancer treatment might be more impactful to the community. Name is just a “name” unless real change or benefit comes with it ….it seems pointless. Deran Koligian did a lot for that district and education yet not even a mention of his name for this school. Yet the fruits if his labor live in years after hus death because if programs he implemented. While its great to memorialize someone who died of cancer its akso important to remember the impact they had on others and policy changed because of their tiredless efforts.
    Mr. Shagoian was one of the best visionary music teachers at Clovis Unified . Shagoian practically built the music program at CUSD and inspired m any with music. He worked long hours, dedicated after hour rehearsals for band and performances. Hence why the Shagoian Performance Hall at Clovis North was named for him.
    Justin Garza gym or sports complex might have been more appropriate otherwise I agree keeo the names specific to geographic location. I really hope a foundation is also started under Justin Garzas name .

    Reply
    • Tosha

      Justin Garza was not just an amazing coach, but an award-winning science teacher who mentored thousands of students, not just athletes. His teaching and coaching methods are still being used at several Valley high schools. He also was an instrumental voice in educating the community about joining the National Marrow Registry, since there is a dire need for a more ethnically diverse donor pool. He received national attention for these efforts and brought more recruitment to the Central Valley. This is why the trustees selected Justin Garza High School, not just to memorialize him.
      I hope Central Unified embraces the name of Justin Garza High School and, as Bill said, is able to spark real change and benefit. Using Justin Garza’s motto of “Stand For More” is an ideal way to empower students to be better and to do more for the common good.

      Reply
  2. KOU XIONG

    Behind a name is a story. It is important that the story behind the name stands for all that is great and positive in the development of the minds of young adults. The geographical approach to naming can derivative to divide communities and even street gang connotations. Yes all schools in clovis are geographically named except for one, Buchanan.

    Reply

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