When Fresno Unified asked the community for help in naming the new alternative education campus at Ventura Avenue and 10th Street, the community responded enthusiastically with 1,672 suggestions honoring 149 individuals or geographical places.
The list of nominated names includes a notable newsman, philanthropists, educators as well as sports figures, former mayors, governors, presidents and first ladies, astronauts, Supreme Court justices — even embattled immunologist Dr. Anthony Fauci, who was thrust into the national limelight as a result of the COVID-19 pandemic.
Four emerged as frontrunners, receiving more than 65 or more nominations partly as a result of public campaigns. The four are, in alphabetical order, local philanthropists Francine and Murray Farber; Holland Locker, a longtime Fresno Unified administrator; former UPI news chief and Fresno State journalism instructor Roger Tatarian; and Dolphas Trotter, another longtime Fresno Unified administrator. Tatarian died in 1995, Trotter in 2009, and Locker in 2019.
Trustees need to decide what to call the 12.8-acre site in southeast Fresno that will be the new home for students now attending alternative education programs at Cambridge Continuation High School, J.E. Young Academic Center, and the eLearn Center. If the project stays on track, trustees could vote on the construction bid by next fall, and the campus could open for classes by August 2023.
Fresno Unified School Board bylaws state that schools may be named for individuals, living or dead, who have made outstanding contributions to the county or community or of significance on a state, national, or worldwide basis, or the geographic area in which the school is located.
Supporters State Their Case
Journalists and Armenian Americans in Fresno are lobbying for Tatarian to be selected, noting that he grew up in the area of the school campus and went on to have an impact worldwide as editor of United Press International, as well as a local impact in training future journalists at Fresno State. In addition, Fresno’s Armenian Americans note that there aren’t any Fresno Unified schools named after an Armenian, even though their community represents a significant portion of the city’s population.
Meanwhile, supporters of Francine and Murray Farber include members of the Fresno City Council who adopted a resolution in April in support of naming the campus for the couple. The Farbers’ philanthropic efforts include the Steve’s Scholars program that rewards Tehipite Middle School students who maintain good grades and attendance and do community service with college scholarships after they graduate from a Fresno Unified high school.
Trotter, who served in many capacities for Fresno Unified including as interim superintendent in 2000, and Locker, whose untimely death in 2019 after 36 years with the district, also have their share of supporters.
Other Names to Consider
In addition to the top four (the Farbers counting as one), the nominees include former presidents Ronald Reagan, Barack Obama, and Donald Trump; former first ladies Michelle Obama and Melania Trump; former astronauts Mae Jemison and Barbara Morgan, a Hoover High alum; Supreme Court Justices Sonia Sotomayor and the late Ruth Bader Ginsburg; former Gov. Jerry Brown; former Mayor Alan Autry and current Mayor Jerry Dyer.
There are also a smattering of nominations of people with present-day links to Fresno Unified, including Sunnyside Area Trustee Valerie Davis; Fresno Unified’s top two administrators, Superintendent Bob Nelson and Deputy Superintendent Misty Her; and Fresno Teachers Association President Manuel Bonilla.
Some whose names were nominated already have something named after them: Broadway star Audra McDonald is the namesake for the theater at Roosevelt High, her alma mater; Tom Seaver Way is a renamed stretch of Echo Avenue in front of Fresno High, the late Hall of Fame pitcher’s alma mater; and Tim Liles Way is the street leading into Sunnyside High, where Liles was the beloved principal until his untimely death last year.
Some of the nominations foreshadow the campus’s educational potential: Fresno New Pathways Academy, Reimagine Learning Center, Ventura Center for Educational Advancement, and Hach’aami Hayil, a Chukchansi phrase that translates to “New Day” and reflects the area’s Native American heritage.
Another Manchester Center?
But some of the nominations might cause a little community confusion: Manchester Center (already the name of the shopping center at Highway 41 and Shields Avenue), City of Fresno California (could be confused with City Hall), and Yosemite (the district’s middle school with the same name already honors the grand national park to our north).
So many choices. Which will they pick?
The board is scheduled to take up the campus naming at Wednesday’s board meeting, which starts at 5:30 p.m. and will be held in the Gaston Middle School cafeteria. The school is at 1100 E. Church Ave. in southwest Fresno.