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BUSD to consider revising naming policy

Minorities and women may not have Burbank Unified schools named after them yet.

However, that may change soon. The Burbank Unified school board is scheduled to vote Thursday on whether to accept a change to the school’s policy for naming district schools as well as district-owned or leased buildings, grounds and facilities.

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The first reading of the proposal aimed at inclusiveness and diversity was made July 19.

Board member Steve Frintner, a representative on the naming subcommittee, along with board member Charlene Tabet, announced a stipulation that the “board will give strong consideration to names of women and/or minorities so as to encourage equitable representation among BUSD schools and facilities.”

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None of the 17 elementary, middle or high schools within the district is named after a minority or woman.

“That’s something that we’ve discussed, [board member Steve] Ferguson and I,” Frintner said.

“The schools in the district, we don’t have one that’s named after a woman. That is something that certainly should have strong consideration,” he added.

Of that group of schools, 15 are christened after white males with the exceptions being Providencia Elementary, named after the school’s location, and Monterey High School for the street where the school is located.

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Burbank Unified is an outlier regionally because nearby districts in Glendale, Los Angeles and Pasadena have schools named after influential females — Eleanor Toll, Amelia Earhart and Norma Coombs, respectively.

“The impetus of the review of the policy was we started in the last two years getting a lot of naming request for buildings,” Burbank Supt. Matt Hill said. “First, we had a couple of buildings and then we had a field and the board hadn’t looked at the policy closely in a while.”

Currently, there are only a few regulations in the naming of facilities, which is that individuals or entities “made outstanding contributions, including financial contributions,” to the school community, state, nation or world or that a building be named for its “geographic area.”

The board also revised its policy for when a building will be named as it established rules for the creation of a Facilities Naming Committee.

The committee would consist of two board members, the district’s director of elementary or secondary education, the principal of said school, a current or former district teacher, a parent representative, a student and two community members at large.

Before the adoption of any name, the board will hold a public meeting.

As for smaller requests, the district did update its policy for memorials and honoraria for school venues and facilities such as athletic fields, gymnasiums, auditoriums, theaters, multipurpose rooms and libraries.

Members of the community looking to name such a facility must first make a request during the public comment section of a board meeting. That statement will then need to be followed with a written request submitted to the board.

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In terms of memorials, the district does have a few named after women including the Helen von Seggern Auditorium at the Burbank Adult School.

Smaller honors such as commemorative trees or gardens, benches, flag poles or the naming of rooms will also be considered, up to three a year.

One potentially problematic change to the policy discussed was the rescinding or renaming of facilities.

District officials said it would consider renaming a facility when a request has been received by “students, their family, school faculty, or community interest groups.”

Sufficient cause for the renaming would exist if “the person or entity for which the school has been named has been convicted of a felony, a crime of moral turpitude, or participated in, practiced or endorsed any disreputable behavior which would have a negative reflection on the school or district or would bring dishonor to the district students and staff.”

One school mentioned during public comment of a previous board meeting was David Starr Jordan Middle School, named after the first chancellor of Stanford and a notorious supporter of eugenics, which seeks to improve the human population by controlled breeding to increase the occurrence of desirable heritable characteristics.

In March, the Palo Alto school board renamed its middle school from David Starr Jordan to Frank S. Greene Jr., an African American venture capitalist.

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