Placentia Unified School District trustees are facing a difficult test this week that involves multiple questions about civics, history and geography.
The troublesome test question is this: Would it be wise for the district to rename itself if it merges with the neighboring Yorba Linda Elementary School District?
Placentia's City Council has already thundered its answer.
"On behalf of the City Council, I would like to remind you of the city's opposition to any name change," Placentia Mayor George F. Ziegler wrote in a letter to the school board last week.
"The current name has been in use since 1874," said the mayor's letter. "The current name reflects academic excellence and is historically significant. It would seem inappropriate to change the district's name after it has been in continuous use for over 110 years."
Barbara Williams, president of the Placentia Unified School Board, agrees that the district name is steeped in history. But in an interview Sunday, Williams also pointed out that during the past 110 years, Placentia Unified has grown beyond the city limits.
"Our district now has about three-fourths of the City of Yorba Linda and parts of Anaheim, Fullerton and Brea," she said. "Yorba Linda's elementary school district wants to join us, and we are very supportive of that.
"And in that regard, one of our trustees, Bill Yates, who is from Yorba Linda, has asked that the name-change proposal be an agenda item at our meeting Tuesday night. So, yes, we'll be discussing it, but I don't know if it'll come to a vote."
Williams said she can understand the City of Placentia's concern about changing the name, and also understands the concerns of Yorba Linda and the other cities that they are being excluded in the current name.
Situation Not Unusual
Williams also noted that the situation is not unusual in Orange County, where school districts named after one city frequently lap over into several adjoining cities.
And, she said, Placentia Unified is very supportive of Yorba Linda Elementary School District's merger ambitions.
Yorba Linda has for years been seeking to secede from Fullerton Joint Union High School District and form its own unified school district because many parents claim the students have to drive or be bused too far to get to the nearest high school, Troy High in Fullerton.
Yorba Linda secessionists frequently pointed out that they are the only elementary school district in California not contiguous to their high school district.
But Fullerton fought Yorba Linda's secession efforts and Yorba Linda was rebuffed both in the courts and the state Legislature.
Realizing that they cannot become an independent district with their own high school, some Yorba Linda parents in recent months have called for merging their kindergarten-through-eighth-grade district into adjoining Placentia Unified, which has both elementary and high schools. By becoming part of Placentia Unified, parents believe that students will be able to continue on into Placentia high schools, rather than attend high school in Fullerton.
All of which brings geographical names and civic pride into focus.
Against Name Change
Placentia's City Council has adopted a resolution against a name change, in addition to the terse missive sent to the school board from Mayor Ziegler. Placentia and Yorba Linda civic leaders are likely to be in the audience plugging for their respective points of view when the school board takes up the name-change proposal at its 7:30 p.m. meeting Tuesday at district headquarters, 1301 E. Orangethorpe Ave.
"Some people think that if the merger occurs, a name change would be appropriate," Williams said. "It's a good question, what the name will be. Nothing has been suggested so far."