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Community Digest

Norwalk-La Mirada : District Officials Rename School After Cesar Chavez

June 24, 1993

Despite protests from some parents, Norwalk-La Mirada officials honored Cesar Chavez on Monday by naming a school after him.

Five of the seven members of the school board said the new name for Walnut Elementary School would preserve the memory of the civil rights activist and United Farm Workers organizer, who died April 23.

It would also give students a positive Latino role model, they said. About 65% of the school's 517 students are Latino.

"He touched a lot of people here," board member Mary Lou Gomez said of Chavez. "I want them to have someone to look up to."

However, board members Jesse M. Luera and William A. White voted against the name change after seven parents and students angrily objected. Luera said he favored placing Chavez's name on another school.

The elementary school has had four names since it opened more than 70 years ago, district officials said.

It was originally Norwalk Grammar School when it opened in the early 1920s. In 1949, it was renamed after former principal Nettie L. Waite.

The school was closed in 1978, and when the district reopened it in 1986, officials chose to name it Walnut after the street on which it sits.

Parent Sally Moreno said she and others are especially loyal to the Walnut name.

Earlier this month, a group of Latino and Anglo parents submitted petitions urging the board to keep the current name, Moreno said.

Moreno said parents were upset that the move for the name change came from board member Salvador Ambriz, not the school or the parents of students who attend the school.

District officials said they conducted two public meetings at which the change was discussed, and that a majority of parents favored naming the school after Chavez.

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