Florence Elementary name change on hold

Thankfully, after six month of effort, the GLBT Historic Task Force withdrew its plan to honor lesbian politician Chris Kehoe by renaming Uptown’s first school — Florence Elementary. In a phone conversation with Uptown News, task force leader Nicole Murray Ramirez blamed the controversial moves poor outreach efforts on San Diego School Board member Kevin Beiser, who joined the GLBT Historic Task Force to assist with the Florence initiative. Beiser criticized Murray Ramirez saying that blaming people “isn’t productive or healthy.” Additionally, Beiser labeled comments in opposition to renaming the school after LGBT leader, Christine Kehoe, a subtle form of discrimination against the LGBT community.

The efforts began in the fall of 2014 with little notice of the first meeting. Two subsequent meetings were held at the school drawing opponents from throughout the school and neighborhood. At the February 2015 Hillcrest Town Council (HTC) meeting, residents and Florence Elementary School students, parents and alumni spoke out in opposition of the name change to honor politician Christine Kehoe. The HTC overwhelmingly voted against changing the historic name. At the February 16 meeting of the Bankers Hill Community Group a letter was read from resident Deirdre Lee (whose father was principal at Florence Elementary School in the 50s and 60s) asking for support to retain the school’s original name. Of the nearly 30 members in the audience, 26 signed a petition to oppose changing the name of the school.

florence2 The announcement brought out a new round of comments…

“The Hillcrest Town Council did its job by shining a light on the issue and giving the community a voice. The community has spoken loud and clear. A “subtle form of discrimination” Mr. Beiser is not listening to the community.”

Luke Terpstra, Chair Hillcrest Town Council

1911-1915 Boys Team

“….No state/city buildings, parks and especially Elementary Schools should not be named after living politicans. The facts remain, for many reasons, that Kehoe’s name is a No Sale. Perhaps she, along with her political friends can go find another playground because they have disrupted Hillcrest’s Historic Florence Elementary School enough!”

Rick Wilson, Neighborhood Activist

“Florence Elementary School is a part of Hillcrest history having served Uptown for over a century. Many alumni, neighbors and community leaders found out about the renaming late in the process, but thankfully were able to preserve its name.”

Ann Garwood, President Hillcrest History Guild




12 thoughts on “Florence Elementary name change on hold”

  1. Ann Santilli says:

    What has Christine Kehoe done for the community let alone Florence Elementary School to have the school change its name to hers. This is all because of LGBT activists for political gain.

  2. Marty Dillabough says:

    I attended Florence School in the early 60’s. Ive just recently started to look back at my Comfort memories as the word Cancer has become part of my identity. My heart sank when I came across the issue of renaming my beloved school. I hope against all political gameplans that this change never is allowed to happen which in effect robs us of our History.

  3. Rick Wilson.....Hillcrest says:

    Perhaps to make things simple, San Diego could have a policy that other cities have that public schools, parks, etc. cannot be named for living persons. That makes sense. Why rename a historic school for a living politican? Why?

  4. Judith Swink says:

    What is the history underlying the naming of Florence Elementary School 107 years ago. I first thought that it was related to Florence Heights but now understand that Florence Heights was closer to downtown. The Florence Elementary School website states that the name was inspired by the City of Florence, Italy, because of the association with the Renaissance movement in Italy & other European countries (most of which didn’t exist as countries at that time). I think it would be worthwhile for someone to research that history – and points of history across the intervening 107 years – for use in efforts to retain the historical name of the school.

    I also think that the School District needs to take into account the memories of the many thousands of students who attended Florence Elementary School and retain strong emotional ties to the school and community of Hillcrest. It’s a disservice to all of them to throw away the history underlying the original name in favor of a politician no matter how admirable he or she may be. (I’ve long been a strong supporter of Christine Kehoe both as a City Council member and a State legislative representative. I can’t believe that she would be supportive of using her name to displace 107 years of community history.

  5. W. Reed says:

    Bravo to Andrew Towne for his letter regarding a “proposed” name change to the Florence Elementary School. The Gay and Lesbian Historic Task Force (GLHFT) is secretively railroading a change to one of Hillcrest’s landmarks by pushing to rename it the “Christine Kehoe School of Social Justice”.

    While Ms. Kehoe is deserving of such acclaim, it should not be done at the expense of historical Hillcrest. Find a new venue to name in her honor. She is not a resident, has no children who attend or did attend this school, and has done nothing for the school to merit such a change. And the idea of “School of Social Justice”…give me a break, it is an elementary school, not a school of diplomacy. To make it worse, the GLHFT is not publicizing the “public” opinion meetings, nor are any of the members of the San Diego Unified School District Board (who will vote for the change) attending such meetings to hear the outcry.

    I would like to hear from Ms. Kehoe about this proposed change; is she in favor of renaming this 100-year old historic school in Hillcrest and if yes, for what reasons? She is one of many gay women who have worked in the field of government.

    I would also like to see a more openly distributed outlet for this subject, maybe the Union Tribune, to get this information out to many in the Hillcrest area who do not read the gay papers and would probably strongly protest the change. Maybe Ms. Kehoe will have the same opinion as I do…renaming can be called discrimination (reverse in this instance), something we, as a gay community, are very familiar with.

    W. Reed

  6. Dolly Wilson says:

    Mr. Aguirre,

    I am a proud and active 39-year resident of San Diego. When I heard about the proposed name change for Florence Elementary, I was appalled and felt I must voice my opposition to changing such a historically important place. I have had friends and family in Hillcrest since 1979, have passed the school on countless occasions, and have often been grateful that such an old and historic place was still being utilized for what it was originally purposed. The name has been an icon in the Hillcrest area, and should stay that way.

    The point of awarding the name of a school or some form of institution to a person should be out of recognition for that person’s accomplishments that revolve around the institution or community. Not just because a particular political or activist group believes they share a single attribute with that person – a single attribute that should be exploited above all others.

    Some other things to consider:

    · There should be a specific reason that the person’s name is being used – such as they are the founder of the institution, a major financial benefactor, a notable historical figure associated with the institution, a respected teacher or other leader/employee of the institution. Is Christine Kehoe any of these?

    · What about the precedent? Are there enough historic locations in San Diego willing to be renamed so that every political, activist, or racial group gets a school named after their choice of person?

    · Hillcrest is not just gay people! What about all the non-gay residents in the Hillcrest area? What’s the representation for them?

    · TEASING. Are they aware of just how cruel elementary children are? The teasing these children may endure from other children at other schools could be horrendous. Wouldn’t targeting a high school or college be a more suitable choice for this change…if at all?

    Wouldn’t the awareness of the gay community be better served by actual activism, than by a name change of a building? Planned events that benefit the community, on behalf of gay activists, are widely supported.

    Such as:

    — helping the homeless
    — cleaning up the community
    — making the community a safer place
    — assistance for the elderly or low income families
    — finding ways to make the area more attractive to tourism

    Clearly, there is a nefarious agenda behind this name change. What’s next? Balboa Park? Kate Sessions? Coronado? Old Town? This is a ridiculous proposition and both Christine Kehoe and the group initiating it should be ashamed.

    Dolly Wilson

  7. Luke Terpstra says:

    Interesting. They seem to have struck a nerve. I have been getting notification of the growing opposition to this name change as well at the Hillcrest Town Council. We will be having an “Open Forum” at our next HTC meeting on February 10, 2015, 6:30pm at the Joyce Beers Community Center. Please join us and let us know what you think. Then please attend the School meeting on February 12th at 5:30pm at Florence Elementary School in Hillcrest and let them know what you think. If you have to choose one meeting over the other then please attend the school meeting on February 12, at that meeting you will be able to speak directly to the group that wants to change the name.
    Luke Terpstra
    Hillcrest Town Council

  8. Judith Finlay says:

    So what was the result of the 2/10 and 12 hearings? What will happen now?

    1. Andrew Towne says:

      The vote against the renaming was about 12 to 1 at the Hillcrest Town Council meeting.

      The vote against the renaming was about 16 to 1 at the school meeting.

      At the previous school meeting, the vote had been 11 against, 1 undecided.

      I spoke to the one and only school board member in attendance at the school meeting — Mr. Barrera — and he seemed unimpressed by the negative reaction.

      He basically said that there was huge support for the name change and that the proponents could have “packed the room” if they had wanted to.

      His reaction makes it clear to me that a heavy opposition turnout will be required when the school board puts the item on the agenda.

      School board meetings are televised and archived on the web (you can see past meetings on the school board website), so no one will be able to pretend that the community in general favors this change if enough people show up and speak.

      This whole process has been very secretive, so we probably won’t know about the school board meeting until the last minute.

      I understand the meetings are at the school district headquarters on Park and El Cajon boulevards (I could be wrong about this), so they should be easy to get to for those in the community without cars.

      People should show up early so they can understand the process (filling out speaker slips, etc.)

      It probably wouldn’t hurt to contact local media before the meeting.

      Let everyone you know who is connected to Florence know what is going on!

  9. Andrew Towne says:

    For those who don’t know already, the proponents of the name change have withdrawn their request for the time being. In a statement the Gay and Lesbian Historic Task Force has decried the “anti-gay” and “anti-woman” opponents and claimed that they have done nothing for the school. These ridiculous accusations don’t even deserve a response. So I won’t make one here.

  10. Neil Ferrier says:

    The idea of renaming the school is stupid and a waste of time. Don’t the proponents have better ideas or activities to do?

  11. Dolly Wilson says:

    Kudos to the passionate letter writers and those in the Hillcrest community who came out to be heard and participate in the meetings!! The name change idea was ridiculous, and anyone with with even an iota of intelligence should have known from the inception, that it would have set a precedent that could have horrific effects for the entire city of San Diego. Thank you, thank you!

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