News


New school to be named after Jose Antonio Vargas

Whisman school to be named after award-winning journalist

Editor's note: This story has been updated.

Seeking to honor a former Crittenden Middle School student who went on to become a Pulitzer prize-winning journalist, Mountain View Whisman School District board members agreed to name a new school after Jose Antonio Vargas.

Vargas' name quickly became a favorite among district residents, staff and eventually the school board as the top choice for naming a new school being built on North Whisman Road, effectively replacing the old Slater Elementary School. Because of quirks in the state's naming system for schools, naming the new school Slater was out of the question.

Vargas, a Mountain View High School graduate and a former high school intern at the Voice, launched a prominent career as a journalist and went on to win a Pulitzer as a member of the Washington Post team that covered the 2007 Virginia Tech shooting. In 2011, he outed himself as an undocumented immigrant, describing how his family sent him to live with his grandparents in California in 1993, and discovering his documents were fake at age 16. In recent years he has become an outspoken advocate for immigrant rights.

Board president Laura Blakely said naming the school for Vargas is a great way to acknowledge a local student who received support from school staff and community members and used it as a springboard to launch a successful career. She said it also recognizes his role in fighting to help undocumented immigrants in the U.S. -- particularly those who came to the country at an early age and were granted temporary legal status under Deferred Actions for Childhood Arrivals (DACA).

"He took that education that he got here in Mountain View and became a Pulitzer prize-winning journalist and then a real fighter for freedom, particularly for 'Dreamers,'" Blakely said earlier this month.

Board members formally voted on the names for the North Whisman school, the new preschool and the boardroom on Thursday, June 14, making Jose Antonio Vargas Elementary School official. The vote was 4-0, with Greg Coladonato abstaining.

When contacted by the Voice after the board's initial decision on May 31, Vargas said he would wait to comment until the board made its final decision June 14.

Board member Tamara Wilson, who lives in the Whisman area and proposed the name, said she wasn't sure what the reaction would be, and that she was excited to see the community rally behind the idea. Board member Ellen Wheeler said she was also pleasantly surprised to see interesting names make it to the end of the school-naming process.

"I was expressing some cynicism (earlier) that we'd be able to actually get names of this level of meaning all the way through the process," Wheeler said at the May 31 meeting. "I thought we'd end up with some really bland names so they wouldn't be objectionable to anybody."

Although naming the school after Vargas won majority support from the board, there were some reservations about the new school getting mixed up with the nearby Vargas Elementary School in Sunnyvale or with Manuel De Vargas Elementary School in Cupertino. Wheeler suggested that the community could make a concerted effort to say the whole name -- Jose Antonio Vargas Elementary -- or an abbreviated J.A. Vargas in order to avoid any confusion.

Another concern, raised by Trustee Coladonato, is the idea of naming a school after someone who is both alive and relatively young, which he said could put the school community in an awkward situation if Vargas ever does something objectionable. He pointed to Palo Alto Unified School District, which is mired in a lengthy process to rename Jordan and Terman middle schools. The district's school board voted to rename the schools because Lewis Terman and David Starr Jordan advocated for eugenics during the early 20th century.

It's already risky enough to name a school after a dead person, Coladonato argued, but naming a school after someone who is still alive means the school's namesake has a higher potential to be tarnished.

"When the person is still alive and still has maybe 50 years more living to do, I just feel like it puts the school in an awkward position to feel like anything done by this living person reflects on them," he said. "I don't feel very comfortable with that."

Wheeler said she didn't think there are any significant differences between naming a school after a living or a dead person, and that the example Coladonato used shows neither option is exempt from criticism. Blakely said she wasn't too worried Vargas was going to do anything terrible, and it shouldn't get in the way of the board's decision.

"Sure he could mess up, we all could, but I have great confidence in him," Blakely said. "I'm not so concerned that I wouldn't want to name a school after him."

Besides Vargas, the runner-up names included the former President Barack and former first lady Michelle Obama, as well as former Mountain View school board member Gail Urban Moore. Rather than throw out the names, Superintendent Ayinde Rudolph said the district could name its preschool after the Obamas and suggested that the new boardroom could be named the Gail Urban Moore Leadership Center.

Comments

35 people like this
Posted by MV 64
a resident of Castro City
on Jun 8, 2018 at 2:19 pm

Fantastic! Local figure whose accomplishments and whose activism are inspiring.


59 people like this
Posted by I didn't realize he'd died!
a resident of Another Mountain View Neighborhood
on Jun 8, 2018 at 2:41 pm

That being a customary precondition for honorific school naming, appearance on postage stamps, etc. etc.

"IF Vargas ever does something objectionable" -- ? That wording implies that driving unlicensed (Vargas's 2012 arrest) isn't "objectionable." And in the US at large, many people feel also that intentionally circumventing standing US immigration laws (regardless of what caused the individual's status originally) is "objectionable" -- even many people in Mountain View, whether or not that's acnowledged in these pages.

So if I understand right: A Palo Alto school has to drop its longstanding name because the namesake (though known almost entirely for distinguished positive achievements) also took part in a movement that was popular, and widely considered progressive, at the time; while a Mountain View school now proposes to adopt the name of someone already highly controversial, and with an arrest record.

"Curiouser and curiouser!" cried Alice.


23 people like this
Posted by James
a resident of another community
on Jun 8, 2018 at 2:45 pm

Excellent choice!


22 people like this
Posted by eric
a resident of another community
on Jun 8, 2018 at 2:46 pm

Typical Coladonato trying to spin away his far right tendencies behind a pretty silly arguement.

PAUSD's situation PROVES that honoring someone deceased is not without risk either. This was a thoughtful choice with meaning to the local community. Well done, trustees.


26 people like this
Posted by Caroline
a resident of another community
on Jun 8, 2018 at 4:18 pm

As a Californian I am just so proud that we get to call José Antonio Vargas one of our own. Good on the district for honoring a living alumna who will inspire all students, but especially those who have immigrated from afar. This represents California values at their best.


45 people like this
Posted by Crazy!
a resident of Cuesta Park
on Jun 8, 2018 at 4:45 pm

@Caroline- Actually what it inspires is more people to enter the country illegally. Shall we make a hero out of somebody that entered the country illegally (even though as a child, he became aware he was here illegally and as an adult he didn’t return to his native country) and now aids and abets other illegal immigrants in skirting the law. Is this really the best we could come up with for naming a school? The immigration issue is hugely controversial- naming a school after an illegal immigrant just increases the divisiveness. Why go there?


18 people like this
Posted by Reality
a resident of Slater
on Jun 8, 2018 at 4:47 pm

@I didn't realize he'd died!

Equating eugenics and unlicensed driving as comparable crimes is laughable. Remember: "progressive and popular" movements include slavery and colonization. Period acceptance is no longer an excuse.


48 people like this
Posted by LOL
a resident of Castro City
on Jun 8, 2018 at 5:14 pm

[Portion removed due to disrespectful comment or offensive language]

Be honest with yourselves, if you'd been told on the day you turned 16 that you weren't a U.S. citizen, what would you do? Pack up and head to a country you have no memory of? Or try to continue living your life the way you had been? Do you really not care about other human beings?


16 people like this
Posted by Wow, So Many Haters
a resident of Another Mountain View Neighborhood
on Jun 8, 2018 at 5:21 pm

[Portion removed due to disrespectful comment or offensive language]


In other news...good on Mountain View Whisman School District for this move. Jose Antonio Vargas has done Mountain View proud.


4 people like this
Posted by AIA
a resident of Old Mountain View
on Jun 8, 2018 at 5:39 pm

Sad to read many of these postings....


33 people like this
Posted by I didn't realize he'd died!
a resident of Another Mountain View Neighborhood
on Jun 8, 2018 at 5:49 pm

Here we go. Three out of 11 posts so far questioning the naming choice, and it actually prompts someone to cry "racists," and another "So Many Haters" -- already! (And even proceed to project pet notions -- totally wrong, as usual -- of what the commenting critics here think and do.)

Welcome to Mountan View of 2018, where anyone who dares ask questions about lawbreaking, from any of many perspectives, is instantly labeled a "hater" or a "racist," and some people think that labeling is perfectly OK. (Kindred spirits to others who try to suppress opinions they don't like on college campuses now by the bizarre, Orwellian claim that an opinion you don't like is tantamount to violence and "therefore" justifies actual violence in response. . .)

Oh, and citing one renaming case that touches on eugenics of a century ago and another touching on recent arrests (Vargas has had multiple arrests, including on immigration-law charges) isn't "equating." Try reading what's actually written, rather than what you prefer to read into it.


Like this comment
Posted by Wow, So Many Haters
a resident of Another Mountain View Neighborhood
on Jun 8, 2018 at 5:52 pm

[Post removed due to disrespectful comment or offensive language]


55 people like this
Posted by Christopher Chiang
a resident of North Bayshore
on Jun 8, 2018 at 8:30 pm

Christopher Chiang is a registered user.

As a civics teacher, I teach of Jose Antonio Vargas's inspiring work every year. Certainly, I aspire that every student in Mountain View should learn about Mr. Vargas whenever they study what it means to be an American. Yet a school name doesn't make for an effective civics lesson for students, rather reflects the wishes of adults.

Not for any one reason should Mr. Vargas' name not have been chosen, but for a confluence of reasons, Mr. Vargas' name is not the best choice for the new school at Slater for the reasons stated by Trustee Coladonato. Primarily, Sunnyvale next door already has a school named Vargas Elementary only a mile from Slater. Secondarily, PAUSD shows naming schools after any person can be problematic as the reputation of any person can change, but this is even more the case for a such a young person. Who I hope keeps doing amazing things.

Last, it is neither racist nor unprogressive to believe the naming of a neighborhood school should strive to be as non-political and safe as possible, that sounds boring, but it's the prudent approach to such a permanent fixture of a diverse community.

If the board wants to honor Mr. Vargas' work, fund middle school journalism programs or organize early college counseling and scholarships for undocumented MVWSD students. The research that even a small college fund early in a child's life can change their trajectory.

Any of the above do more for students. A change in school name feels good to most of MV adults, but divides a minority of MV, who's voice still matters, all the while, doing little to advance of the needs of MVWSD's students. The other finalists Grace Hopper, Barack Obama, and Gail Urban Moore are all more pragmatic choices.


31 people like this
Posted by An Interested Observer
a resident of another community
on Jun 9, 2018 at 1:25 am

An Interested Observer is a registered user.

Agree with Christopher Chiang!


8 people like this
Posted by Yolinda
a resident of Sylvan Park
on Jun 9, 2018 at 6:09 am

Yolinda is a registered user.

How about "JAV" for shorter? I still like Rudoplph - naming a school or program or restroom after a true leader - a red-nosed raindeer that will never let us down.


8 people like this
Posted by Steven Nelson
a resident of Cuesta Park
on Jun 9, 2018 at 12:19 pm

Steven Nelson is a registered user.

reporter Kevin "Because of quirks in the state's naming system for schools, naming the new school Slater was out of the question." The Administration of MVWSD may have used this explanation, but it is not true as far as most people would read the Ed Code, or look at the examples of Stevenson and Huff!

Stevenson, for example, was a closed school, but reopened 2009-10 with the Same Name when a new state School Code was assigned on it's reopening. (new code 4369591-6049464, old name 225 students)

Exactly the same, when Huff elementary was reopened 1998-99, at the same street address, with a new state School Code assigned on it's reopening, but keeping the same MVWSD historical name "Frank L. Huff". (new code 4369591-6047971, old name, 264 students)

CDE regulation, "condition 5" applies to this new school, new "code" required
Web Link
If it is just a naming "quirk" surely deleting initial or adding full middle, etc. would 'fix the quirk'
i.e. old "Kennith N. Slater Elementary 4369591-6047997" becomes Kennith Slater new code #.


3 people like this
Posted by Yolinda
a resident of Sylvan Park
on Jun 9, 2018 at 12:49 pm

Yolinda is a registered user.

Who is (or was) Kenneth N. Slater?


Like this comment
Posted by Steven Nelson
a resident of Cuesta Park
on Jun 9, 2018 at 1:08 pm

Steven Nelson is a registered user.

The Mountain View Historical Association monographs on the history of Mountain View Schools (or the MVWSD district office) can tell you about Bubb, Huff, Landels, Whisman, Castro, Crittenden, Graham and - of course Slater. The MV Library History Room has a copy of these monograms for you to read or copy.


2 people like this
Posted by Yolinda
a resident of Sylvan Park
on Jun 9, 2018 at 1:46 pm

Yolinda is a registered user.

Good. But is that your answer? That I should look it up at the library or by asking the school district? You are the one suggesting the school could remain Slater. Why should it? Who is or was Kenneth N. Slater? If he is not dead, he is rolling over in his grave.


17 people like this
Posted by LOL
a resident of Old Mountain View
on Jun 9, 2018 at 2:34 pm

LOL is a registered user.

Citizen84 will continue their quest to remove the names of noted criminals from any and all institutions. Watch out Rosa Parks, MLK, George Washington, Cesar Chavez, Gandhi, and Nelson Mandela. These unrepentant criminals have had it good for too long!


2 people like this
Posted by Yolinda
a resident of Sylvan Park
on Jun 9, 2018 at 3:13 pm

Yolinda is a registered user.

After former TRUSTEE Steven Nelson looks it up at the library and gives us the scoop on "Kennth N. Slater," I will cast my final vote for the name of the mini-school to be built in the shadow of GOOGLE DAY CARE that pays rent the District uses to pad pockets. Wait one cotton-pickin minute. It just dawned on me. It could be named GOOGLE SCHOOL. How could I have missed it. Steven Nelson should also gove us a history on Mr. Google. Must be a man.


5 people like this
Posted by An Interested Observer
a resident of another community
on Jun 9, 2018 at 10:20 pm

An Interested Observer is a registered user.

How about naming it Whisman Elementary School and maintaining that connection to the district's history.


22 people like this
Posted by heathers
a resident of Old Mountain View
on Jun 9, 2018 at 10:35 pm

heathers is a registered user.

It's unfortunate that so many posters have resorted to name calling in response to others opposition to illegal immigration. Labeling them racist "haters" is hardly a response to their position nor a defense of yours. That aside, why the search to name the school after a person? This country/state, county/city is so divided that nobody agrees on who qualifies as a hero. Streets, schools, etc are being renamed and statues are being removed. I see Barack/ Michelle Obama as an alternative to Jose Vargas. Would Donald Trump's name be equally considered? I'm being facetious but I hope you catch my drift. Why not pick a neutral name that defies controversy? Blue Sky Elementary, Redwood Elem, Creekside Elem, Friendship Elem... You could dream up hundreds of possibilities that would offend nobody. Let's be smart about this. No need for a new fight.


5 people like this
Posted by Citizen84
a resident of Old Mountain View
on Jun 9, 2018 at 11:00 pm

Citizen84 is a registered user.

Thank you LOL, you definitely got it right!

The semblance between Jose Vargas and George Washington is simply striking. Songs will be sung about Mr. Vargas, his writings ill be studied, movies about his life will become instant blockbusters. His likeness will be curved into Mount Rushmore any day now.

Let me just bow my head in shame and freely admit that Jose Vargas is s GIANT of a man that makes George Washington look positively like a munchkin. So sorry I doubted the wise decisions of School District board and you, LOL.

P.S.

Typical - all my comments have been removed by the invisible, but most likely, Liberal hand of moderator. Just what was it that you found offending, my friend? G-d forbid, the article might actually provoke a debate? Petrified of arguments, are we?

Moderator, you just lost a customer for your sad little rug.


11 people like this
Posted by heathers
a resident of Old Mountain View
on Jun 9, 2018 at 11:45 pm

heathers is a registered user.

@Citizen84 - you must be new to this publication. At the first mention of the "I" word (illegal immigrants), the Weekly moderator always starts removing posts and shuts down the discussion, requiring login. Liberal voices only allowed here and censorship is alive and well.


12 people like this
Posted by LOL
a resident of Old Mountain View
on Jun 10, 2018 at 12:07 am

LOL is a registered user.

Sorry, Citizen84, he was an unrepentant criminal, I thought you were opposed to naming things after people like that.

It's so weird how you only had a concern about Washington being referenced in that list. If only I could figure out what sets him apart from the rest of those people...


8 people like this
Posted by Yolinda
a resident of Sylvan Park
on Jun 11, 2018 at 12:00 pm

Yolinda is a registered user.

I am still awaiting the post from former trustee Steven Nelson once he has researched who " Kenneth N. Slater" is or was. Wikipedia says Jose Antonio Vargas is now 37 and was brought here at age 12 from the Phillipines. A poster above refers to Mr. Vargas' conviction for driving without a license in 2012. When did the State create the special license for "undocumented?" That did happen. I don't remember when off hand. Regardless, driving without a license - unless he did not know how to drive - is not murder. Then again, no license, no insurance which could have created a problem. But put it in context. How many Google self-driving vehicles ever got a driver's license? And were those Google vehicles born here? I say NO. They were never born at all. But who are we to DISCRIMINATE against innocent machines. Machines should be made eligible to become President. Why not? It could not get any worse.


4 people like this
Posted by Yolinda
a resident of Sylvan Park
on Jun 12, 2018 at 6:00 am

Yolinda is a registered user.

I see online that the CA law permitting "undocumented" persons to get special CA drivers licenses was passed in 2013 and took effect in 2014. The LA Times reported this year that more than a million persons have gotten those licenses (which require some insurance). So, Jose Antonio Vargas had no such option in 2012. I am still awaiting the report from former trustee Steven Nelson on who "Kenneth N. Slater" is or was. Mr. Nelson stated (above) that the information was available at the city library. So, Mr. Nelson, what did you find out at the library? But to be fair: Does any current trustee know anything about the man whose name (Slater) is not going to be posted at the new (pre) school next to GOOGLE DAY CARE? Post it here. We are waiting.


7 people like this
Posted by Yolinda
a resident of Sylvan Park
on Jun 12, 2018 at 6:18 am

Yolinda is a registered user.

One might also think that the paid full-time Superintendent of the District (Rudolph) who insisted the name Slater could not be used would have at least HIRED A CONSULTANT to drive a mile to the city library to look up "Kenneth N. Slater" in the local history book and would have POSTED the info here. Let's see if that happens. The final decision on the school name is slated for the school board meeting on June 14 (Thursday night).


12 people like this
Posted by An Interested Observer
a resident of another community
on Jun 12, 2018 at 2:27 pm

An Interested Observer is a registered user.

It's not appropriate to name a school after someone who is an illegal immigrant. Let's model "respecting the law" in our actions.


5 people like this
Posted by Lifelong MV Resident (55 Years)
a resident of North Whisman
on Jun 12, 2018 at 5:26 pm

Lifelong MV Resident (55 Years) is a registered user.

There was a meeting at Theuerkauf, on March 20, to discuss the selection of Theuerkauf's new principal. I had an after-meeting discussion with Superintendent Ayinde Rudolph regarding Slater School, where my son would go. Dr. Rudolph explained to me the "quirks" as far as why we couldn't keep the Slater name. But then Dr. Rudolph later stated Slater could be used with some sort of filing with the CDE. There have been previous comments that the school could, in fact, keep the Slater name. I went to Slater and my son would go to Slater. There are thousands of people who went to Slater in its years of existence. Slater is Mountain View history and goes way back with many Mountain View past and present residents. I think it would be worth re-visiting whether the Slater name could, in fact, be kept or not.


3 people like this
Posted by Christopher Chiang
a resident of North Bayshore
on Jun 12, 2018 at 8:49 pm

Christopher Chiang is a registered user.

For those interested, while many of MV's names come from the mid to late 19th century farmers, Kenneth N. Slater was actually Mountain View School District (before the Whisman merger)'s early 20th century superintendent. He served the school community for over 40 years. It's rare that an educator gets honored so, it's a pleasant historical reminder.

It is my understanding that Slater's name is tied to the Google pre-school, and the way the state allows us to "surplus" property to lease makes name transfers trickier. A very fitting name for the new school would have been the beloved Slater principal Maria Loya.

Since she wasn't a finalist, I personally think finalist Grace Hopper would have been a powerful choice for the closest public school to the center of the Silicon Valley.


4 people like this
Posted by Yolinda
a resident of Sylvan Park
on Jun 12, 2018 at 10:29 pm

Yolinda is a registered user.

[Post removed due to disrespectful comment or offensive language]


Sorry, but further commenting on this topic has been closed.

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