After a lengthy discussion by Burbank Board of Education members, Dolores Huerta Middle School was selected to be the new name of David Starr Jordan Middle School at the Board’s regular meeting held Thursday evening, March 4.
Dolores Huerta is a community organizer, labor leader, civil rights activist and, with Cesar Chavez, co-founder of United Farm Workers. UFW was instrumental unionizing California agricultural industry workers and bringing about “union contracts regulating safety and sanitary conditions in farm labor camps, banning discrimination in employment and sexual harassment of women workers,” according to Britannica, as well as “the first union contracts providing for profit sharing and parental leave.”
The push to rename David Starr Jordan Middle School began more than two years ago when complaints about the complicated legacy of Jordan, who promoted eugenics, was brought to the school board. After multiple discussions and lengthy input from the community, the Board agreed to rename the middle school and formed the Jordan Renaming Committee.
Although the process for renaming the school was slowed down by the advent of the coronavirus pandemic in early 2020, the Renaming Committee put forth five candidates for the new name in February 2021: Mariposa Middle School, Amelia Earhart Middle School, Ruth Bader Ginsberg Middle School, Barbara Jordan Middle School and Dolores Huerta Middle School.
“We have a unique opportunity right now to choose a name that is unlike all of the other names,” said Board member Dr. Emily Weisberg, noting Huerta “did do some organizing in and around Burbank” and the efforts of her work continue to be felt to this day.
“It’s exciting we’re finally naming a school after a woman,” commented Steve Ferguson. “Amongst all the incredible choices, I do think it’s time for a woman. It’s time for a woman of color. I think that’s important in our district. Our district is not a white majority by any means and it’s important that the kids in our district see figures celebrated who look like them and who share a history with them or cultural background.”
“Dolores Huerta certainly has more of a connection to southern California than the other candidates mentioned,” Board President Steve Frintner added. “I also think that it’s kind of important and also representing what is a significant portion of our enrollment at this point – the Latino/Hispanic community.”
After multiple members also spoke very strongly in support of Barbara Jordan, a lawyer, educator, State Senator and Texas Congressperson, as an option, the Board then narrowed the choices for the new school name to Jordan and Huerta.
“I hope everybody… goes and looks up all these amazing women,” said Weisberg of the choices.”We’re so lucky we have these two amazing women to choose from.”
Weisberg called Huerta “an inspired and inspiring choice.”
“Dolores is still out there registering voters,” commented Dr. Armond Aghkhanian, as he talked about the importance of the agricultural workers to California and the nation. “I think both choices are wonderful.”
“It’s a learning moment. To me, it says a lot, when we take the eugenicist’s name off and we put the name of the person who he wanted to exclude on the building,” Ferguson also said. “Both final candidates would have been excluded in David Starr Jordan’s America.”
“But who would have been kept from the books in California? Dolores,” Ferguson added. “To me that means a lot.”
Vice President Charlene Tabet talked about her thought process, and that she supported both Barbara Jordan or Dolores Huerta and the role models either of those candidates would provide for students.
“There were certainly many community members who didn’t see the need to change the name,” Frintner also said. “They didn’t want to change the name because they had such an attachment to the name. For you, it will always be Jordan Middle School. That’s not going to change.”
“But the point we made in the decision to change the name is that the school is for the students who are here now and the students who are in the future,” he added. “Should we have a name that gives them an opportunity at a connection to who they are and what they represent? The more I thought about it in those terms, the more it leads to Dolores Huerta.”
After additional discussion, the Board members agreed 5-0 to rename the school to Dolores Huerta Middle School. Plans will be forthcoming to recognize the name change.
The Burbank Board of Education is comprised of President Steve Frintner, Vice President Charlene Tabet, Clerk Steve Ferguson and members Dr. Armond Aghakhanian and Dr. Emily Weisberg. More information on the Board can be found online on their webpage.