Renamed Schools Honor Ed Lee, Dolores Huerta

Two schools brought the proposals forward to honor leaders that better reflect its students and their values.

Mayor Ed Lee smiles during the grand opening of the Merit Center at San Francisco’s Juvenille Justice Center on Nov. 15, 2016. (Jessica Christian/S.F. Examiner)

Two San Francisco schools now bear the names of labor leader Dolores Huerta, the late Mayor Ed Lee, and his wife, Anita in a district-wide push to honor leaders in the communities that reflect them.

The San Francisco Board of Education unanimously approved each renaming resolution on Tuesday, making the new names effective this school year. The Chinese Education Center is now Edwin and Anita Lee Newcomer School while Fairmount Elementary School is now Dolores Huerta Elementary School.

“School names matter,” says Matt Haney, a Board of Education Commissioner and District 6 supervisorial candidate. “It’s important that we elevate and recognize people who have made tremendous contributions to our community.”

Both renaming proposals came from the school communities themselves, who each also chose its new namesake. 

Chinese Education Center chose to honor the Lees for their work to nurture students and newly-arrived immigrant students, who will have a prominent Chinese American leader to identify with and be further connected to the rest of the city. The Chinatown school typically immerses its students in English for one year before they transfer to another public school.

“Both our parents are dedicated to improving the lives of immigrant children and care deeply about access to quality education that meets their unique needs,” said Tania and Brianna Lee, the daughters of Ed and Anita Lee, in a statement. “The renaming will be such a great honor to our late father and to the amazing work that our mother continues to do.”

About 70 percent of students Fairmount High School, located in Glen Park, are Latinx and began looking bring in a new name reflecting their demographics after the 2016 presidential election, Haney says. Huerta, chosen for her decades-long work of labor organizing, will join her United Farm Worker co-founder Cesar Chavez as the only two Latinx leaders honored in San Francisco public schools.

“By adopting the name of a strong Latina leader, we also would like to send a message of empowerment to all our female students, particularly our female students of color,” said Fairmount Elementary Principal Luis Rodriguez.

The two existing schools were not renamed to cease honoring men with racist legacies — like former Mayor James Phelan — but it does come amid a push to have institutions and memorials reflect the surrounding community’s demographics and values.

“I think it’s especially powerful that these proposals come from school communities,” Haney says. “We encourage other schools to consider other names that they see as more appropriate and reflective of their identity as a school.”

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