Please ensure Javascript is enabled for purposes of website accessibility
Should Fresno Schools Honoring Men with Racist Histories be Renamed?
gvw_nancy_price
By Nancy Price, Multimedia Journalist
Published 3 years ago on
August 23, 2021

Share

One elementary school in Fresno is named after a racist, slave-owning U.S. president. A few miles away is an elementary school named for a longtime Fresno developer whose race-based deed restrictions kept Armenians and others from buying homes in certain neighborhoods.

The Central and Fresno Unified School Boards are being asked to rename Polk Elementary, named for President James K. Polk, and J.C. Forkner Elementary, named for the developer of Fig Garden and other Fresno neighborhoods.

But Central trustees aren’t ready to take on the Polk renaming quite yet. On Tuesday, the board members will consider creating a special committee of parents, students, district employees, and community members to consider the names and mascots at all the district’s schools.

It’s the offshoot to a yearlong campaign by Polk student Malachi Suarez to take Polk’s name off his school. Malachi’s campaign began as a class project and then, through an online petition and the support of his family and community members, gradually gathered steam over the past year.

But despite Malachi’s eloquence at several board meetings in asserting why the name should be changed, the trustees did not take a vote. Instead, after hearing from supporters as well as opponents of the name change, the Pioneers, board president Yesenia Carrillo in July proposed creating a committee to examine all school names and mascots. The School Board approved the proposal.

Honor Armenians

The Forkner renaming effort, apparently now headed by Fresno developer Ed Kashian, was sparked by the trustees’ decision to name the new alternative education campus at 10th Street and Ventura Avenue after local philanthropists Francine and Murray Farber instead of H. Roger Tatarian, a Fresno-bred newsman who left home to head United Press International and then returned to teach at Fresno State and train young journalists.

When the trustees opted to name the campus for the Farbers, who have underwritten several programs benefitting Fresno Unified students, writer/journalist Mark Arax and other members of the city’s Armenian community started a lobbying effort to replace Forkner’s name with Tatarian’s on the northwest Fresno elementary.

At a board meeting in early June, Arax quoted from a home sale’s legal documents that forbid use or occupancy by “Asiatics, Mongolians, Hindus, Negroes, Armenians or any natives or descendants of the Turkish Empire.” The purchaser agreed “not to lease, sell or convey … the whole or any portion of said property to any Armenian or to any descendant of an Armenian or to any lineal descendant of an Armenian, save and except those employed as servants by the residents.”

But when Forkner was looking in the 1920s to buy fig trees for Fig Garden — his new “suburban Fresno” development that Forkner promoted as having rigid sales restrictions that would fully protect homeowners “from resale to undesirables” — he turned to Henry Markarian, an Armenian known as the “Fig King,” Arax told the board.

He and others noted that the district, which has a large Armenian community, has no schools named after an Armenian-American.

On Wednesday’s Fresno Unified School Board agenda is a presentation by Kashian, including a June 21 letter from him to board president Valerie Davis asking that the name change request “be fulfilled without review by committee, nor public debate.”

Kashian’s presentation for Wednesday’s board meeting names some of the better-known members of Fresno’s Armenian community, including author William Saroyan, basketball coach Jerry Tarkanian, and TV newswoman Stefani Booroojian, whose contributions have had local, national, and worldwide impact.

“It is incumbent upon all of us to recognize when something is wrong and that a change is required to be made and made decisively when it is raised in the public square,” Kashian said in his letter to Davis. “There are so many wonderful elements that weave together the fabric of this community. One of those elements is the value that when we see something wrong, we make it right. The case has been laid before us with the naming of this school. To the greatest degree possible, I ask your Board of Trustees to make this change as soon as possible.”

According to the staff report linked to Kashian’s presentation, the board does not now have a policy for renaming schools.

Fresno Unified’s board meeting is scheduled to begin at 5:45 p.m. Wednesday in the downtown Education Center at M and Tulare streets. The meeting also will be livestreamed on cable television stations and on the district’s website.

Community Input Sought

Central Unified, which also lacks a school renaming policy, could embark on a months-long process to consider the existing school names and mascots under the timeline proposed for consideration at Tuesday’s board meeting.

If approved by the trustees, the Naming Committee would develop an Equity Analysis Protocol to study school names and mascots by November, conduct a study by January, conduct stakeholder sessions with students and community members by February and March, make a recommendation to the School Board by April, and develop a recommendation for future procedures for naming schools and other buildings and selecting mascots by May.

The open session of Central’s board meeting is scheduled to begin at 7 p.m. Tuesday in the Wayne “Hondo” Hodge Performing Arts Center at Central East High School. The meeting also will be carried online on the district’s YouTube channel.

DON'T MISS

What Have We Liberals Done to the West Coast?

DON'T MISS

Caitlin Clark Overcomes Another Physical Game, Scores 23 to Lead Fever Past Sky

DON'T MISS

Giants Drop Angels as Soler’s 3-Run HR Keys a 9-Run Inning

DON'T MISS

Maryland Gov. Wes Moore to Issue Over 175,000 Marijuana Pardons

DON'T MISS

Ohtani Has Second Two-Homer Game of Season, Betts Breaks Hand as Dodgers Beat Royals

DON'T MISS

US: Michigan, CUNY Failed to Assess Hostile Environment from Israel-Hamas War Protests

DON'T MISS

Putin to Visit North Korea Amid Concerns Over Military Cooperation

DON'T MISS

Netanyahu Dissolves War Cabinet After Key Partner Exits, Say Israeli Officials

DON'T MISS

The Chilling Reason You May Never See the New Trump Movie

DON'T MISS

California Ranks Bottom Third in Overall Child Well-Being, Per New Report

UP NEXT

Fresno State Is 1 of Carnegie Foundation’s 25 Leadership for Public Purpose Colleges

UP NEXT

Squaw Valley Man Allegedly Killed by Lifelong Friend

UP NEXT

Traveling/Not Traveling on District’s Dime Merits Mentions by Fresno Trustees

UP NEXT

Tyson Foods Heir Suspended as CFO After Second Alcohol-Related Arrest

UP NEXT

Fresno State’s Craig School Dean Honored with Humanitarian Award

UP NEXT

What’s the Value of a Fresno Unified Diploma When These ‘Classes’ Are as Easy as A-B-C?

UP NEXT

Trustees OK Bullard High Security Fence, Deny Charter School’s Independent Study Bid

UP NEXT

UCLA Names New Chancellor as Campus Is Still Reeling From Protests Over Israel-Hamas War

UP NEXT

Supreme Court, Siding With Starbucks, Makes It Harder for NLRB to Win Court Orders in Labor Disputes

UP NEXT

Drunk Driver Gets 15 Years to Life for Deadly Fresno Taco Truck Crash

Nancy Price,
Multimedia Journalist
Nancy Price is a multimedia journalist for GV Wire. A longtime reporter and editor who has worked for newspapers in California, Florida, Alaska, Illinois and Kansas, Nancy joined GV Wire in July 2019. She previously worked as an assistant metro editor for 13 years at The Fresno Bee. Nancy earned her bachelor's and master's degrees in journalism at Northwestern University's Medill School of Journalism. Her hobbies include singing with the Fresno Master Chorale and volunteering with Fresno Filmworks. You can reach Nancy at 559-492-4087 or Send an Email

Maryland Gov. Wes Moore to Issue Over 175,000 Marijuana Pardons

47 mins ago

Ohtani Has Second Two-Homer Game of Season, Betts Breaks Hand as Dodgers Beat Royals

56 mins ago

US: Michigan, CUNY Failed to Assess Hostile Environment from Israel-Hamas War Protests

56 mins ago

Putin to Visit North Korea Amid Concerns Over Military Cooperation

1 hour ago

Netanyahu Dissolves War Cabinet After Key Partner Exits, Say Israeli Officials

1 hour ago

The Chilling Reason You May Never See the New Trump Movie

1 day ago

California Ranks Bottom Third in Overall Child Well-Being, Per New Report

1 day ago

Tempted to Try a No-Buy Year? Here Are Tips From People Doing It

1 day ago

‘Wouldn’t Be Where I Am Today:’ California’s Small Business Owners Fight to Save State Aid

1 day ago

Lauryn Hill, Tyla and More Will Perform at the 2024 BET Awards. Here’s What to Know About the Show

2 days ago

What Have We Liberals Done to the West Coast?

Opinion by Nicholas Kristof on June 15, 2024. PORTLAND, Ore. — As Democrats make their case to voters around the country this fall, one chal...

14 mins ago

14 mins ago

What Have We Liberals Done to the West Coast?

26 mins ago

Caitlin Clark Overcomes Another Physical Game, Scores 23 to Lead Fever Past Sky

45 mins ago

Giants Drop Angels as Soler’s 3-Run HR Keys a 9-Run Inning

47 mins ago

Maryland Gov. Wes Moore to Issue Over 175,000 Marijuana Pardons

56 mins ago

Ohtani Has Second Two-Homer Game of Season, Betts Breaks Hand as Dodgers Beat Royals

56 mins ago

US: Michigan, CUNY Failed to Assess Hostile Environment from Israel-Hamas War Protests

1 hour ago

Putin to Visit North Korea Amid Concerns Over Military Cooperation

1 hour ago

Netanyahu Dissolves War Cabinet After Key Partner Exits, Say Israeli Officials

Search

Send this to a friend