Tribal chairman says it's time to give campus a new name
Peter Hardeman Burnett was the first state governor of California, and the namesake for Morgan Hill Unified School District’s former Burnett Elementary School on Tilton Avenue in the northwest part of town.
However, according to Valentin Lopez, Tribal Chairperson for the Amah Mutsun Tribal Band of Costanoan/Ohlone Indians, the politician was a racist who – during his term from 1849-1851 – signed an executive order to exterminate all Indians; paid bounties of 25 cents to $5 for every dead Indian; and paid for military excursions to hunt and kill Indians.
“Morgan Hill can do much better than that,” said Lopez, a 1970 Live Oak High School alumnus, who noted the historical information he cited during Tuesday’s Board of Education meeting was from the California Research Bureau of the California State Library.
“To us, Peter Burnett is both a Hitler and a Klu Klux Klan leader, and this is something I’ve wanted to do for many, many years to come talk before the School Board,” Lopez added.
Burnett Elementary, which was closed in spring of 2009 as a cost-cutting measure by MHUSD to cope with the state budget crisis, was the first Morgan Hill school and was built at a different location in 1856.
In 1897, a new two-story school house was built at the corner of Burnett Avenue and Monterey Road. Further growth warranted another new school, the current site at 85 Tilton Ave.
Principally associated with Mission San Juan Bautista and the surrounding areas of Hollister and Gilroy, the Amah Mutsun Tribal Band occupied the San Juan Valley “long before the Spanish arrived in the late 1700s,” as noted on the tribe’s website. The indigenous peoples were subjected to a subservient existence beneath the Spanish Catholic regime when European colonization of the Pacific coast began in the 1770s.
Lopez, who said his request was not his alone but “coming from our Amah Mutsun Tribe,” mentioned three possible name changes for the old Burnett School, including Yuukis, which means Acorn (the mascot of Live Oak High School) and Yuukan, which means Madrone (the area surrounding Burnett).
In addition, Lopez offered the Amah Mutsun Tribe’s historical knowledge to “help develop true curriculum” on the mission Indians of the area for elementary and high school students.
The Burnett modernization is the first project using Measure G funds, the $198 million bond approved by residents in November 2012 by a 64 percent vote. In March, the Board of Education gave the go-ahead to begin the renovations, which area already underway, as well as designate the former elementary school campus as the new home for Central Continuation High School in 2013-14.
The Board was already considering a name change for the old Burnett site, which will house not only Central High but other unspecified programs and services. The name change must be approved by the Board at a later date.
"Clearly, the lasting effects of California’s first governor’s actions and intentions continue to cause pain to Native American community," said interim superintendent Steven Betando. "It is important for us to consider historical information and what a name represents when making decisions about facilities in our community."
District discusses 2.0 GPA standard for athletes
In MHUSD, a student-athlete can still play a sport with an F in one of their classes as long as the student maintains a 2.0 grade point average overall and remains on track to graduate on time.
That policy (#6145) on extracurricular and co-curricular activities ignited opposite stances from members of the Board of Education during Tuesday’s regular meeting.
Rick Badillo, a first-term board trustee, shook his head and said he did not quite understand how a student is allowed to play a sport if he or she is failing even one of their classes.
Fellow trustee Bob Benevento, who is well-versed on the topic, has felt the same way ever since trustees discussed the issue two years ago, when the Board decided to adopt the 2.0 GPA standard.
“I advocated for the no F policy (at all grade levels),” said Benevento, adding that other districts in the surrounding area carry the same policy, including Gilroy Unified.
Regardless, the Board adopted its GPA standard in 2011. Trustees Ron Woolf and Claudia Rossi showed their support during Tuesday’s meeting to keep things the way they are.
The California Interscholastic Federation, the governing body for all high school sports in California, states that a student must have a 2.0 GPA to participate in athletics.
The Board agreed to discuss the matter further at a future Board meeting.
New fence at Martin Murphy
The Board unanimously voted 5-0 (President Don Moody and trustee Amy Porter-Jensen were not present) to approve an estimated $65,000 project to install a security fence at Martin Murphy Middle School.
The 1-inch, diamond mesh black-coated fence, which will stand six feet tall, according to Director of Facilities Anessa Espinosa, will separate the school grounds from the city park that borders it. While Woolf and Vice President Shelle Thomas said the fence was much needed and long overdue for student safety, Benevento — who also wants district staff to ask the city of San Jose to share in the cost — did not feel the fence was a top priority for the district.
With the approval, however, the district will put out bids on the project and report them back to the Board.
Espinosa also gave a short presentation on the work being done at the old Burnett site to get it ready for the start of the 2013-14 school year and the incoming Central High students. Espinosa reported that as of June 24, bond expenditures totaled $890,133 with $539,911 going to the Burnett modernization plan, which is estimated to cost $7 million upon completion.
In her presentation, Espinosa also outlined the proposed future projects, including the installation of technology infrastructure and implementation, as well as roofing and HVAC replacement, at multiple sites; new fences at Martin Murphy and Britton Middle Schools; and the construction of a new multipurpose room at Charter School of Morgan Hill.
Badillo asked if the Britton fencing and the Charter school’s multipurpose projects were going to be completed this summer. Espinosa explained the two projects are still in their planning stages.
Budget, Service Employees' contract approved
In two unanimous 5-0 votes, the Board approved the adoption of MHUSD’s annual budget for the 2013-14 school year as well as a new three-year contract agreement with the Service Employees International Union, Local 521, which will run through June 30, 2016.
In the annual budget, certificated staff salaries make up approximately $29.4 million of the $65 million in expenditures, or 45 percent; classified salaries total $10.1 million; and employee benefits come in at $10.5 million.
Scott Forstner is a general assignment reporter who covers education and other community issues for the Morgan Hill Times. Reach him at (408) 847-7158 or via email at email@example.com