Let Oñate High School Keep Its Name

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There is widespread effort in Las Cruces right now to change the name of Oñate High School, due to the life and choices made by Juan de Oñate in his time, the late 1500's through the early 1600's. It is argued that he led a life and campaign against the Native inhabitants of North and Central America that left their cities and peoples decimated. While this is the case, he was also the first governor of New Mexico and we live here because he conquered the land.  Our entire foundation as a state was brought about by his conquests, whether we find his reign palatable/acceptable or not. Our county is named after Doña Ana Robledo, who was a colonizer who came with Oñate. Are we ready to change the name of the county, and the road named after her?

Social change is necessary and a useful tool for improvement in societies.  Changing the name of a high school does not cause real change.  Changing the name of a high school does not change history.  It is superficial change that changes nothing but the name itself.  Real change happens in a person's heart.  The legacy of Oñate High School is not in the character of a man that lived over 500 years ago.  The legacy of Oñate High School is written in the hearts of the generations of families who have walked its halls.  The character of these students and alumni has shaped our city, our state and our country.  These students and alumni are the ones who will change society.  As you saw in the survey you conducted, the majority of current students, parents and staff do not want the name to change.  Overall, 75% of respondents voted for the name to remain as it is.  We are doing current students a huge disservice by focusing on superficial change, rather than reforms within our education system locally that will benefit their futures.  Depending on which source you choose, New Mexico ranks in the bottom three or four states in our country for education of children from K-12.  Yet, here we are, focusing on an issue that is more of a political statement than it is an educational issue.

Imagine the cost that this name change would mean for our district.  This year, our district, according to school board numbers, is going to experience a $10 million funding decrease over last year's totals. This is in a state with a projected deficit for FY 21-22 of $2.4 billion.  This plight isn't going to get better soon.  It's going to get worse.  Classes are overcrowded, and students are being educated in outdated hot portables. We, as parents, are purchasing paper and toner for our children's schools, teachers are paying out of pocket for things their schools can't afford to purchase and supplies run out before Spring Break each year.  Oñate High School just had its gym floor completely redone, costing upwards of $100,000.  The cost to have all school materials reprinted, uniforms redone, facilities revamped (including gym floors, wall paintings, signage, etc.) is a huge expense.  Dr. Lozano's study shows it upwards of nearly $200,000.  This doesn't address the cost of legal filings and associated attorney's fees, which will result in the cost soaring higher.  This might not seem like a huge amount of money, but any money flowing away from the actual education of our children is unacceptable.  The list of needs is almost endless, and yet here we are wasting time and resources discussing the name of a high school.  A name, I might add, that didn't create such upheaval until the rest of the world decided it was bad.  Is removing the name of Oñate really worth this type of investment?  Particularly, is it worth removing his name when faced with all of the other serious educational monetary shortfalls our district is experiencing currently?

We propose that IT IS NOT.  That is money that should be invested in our children's education. It is lacking and they need our help, not by changing the name of a high school but by providing opportunities for them to learn and excel.  Please leave the name of Oñate High School alone and focus on the REAL work of educating students and allowing them to leave their mark on the world through their successes.  Now is not the time to spend five cents on such a superficial issue.  Would you paint your car because the engine didn't run?  Would you fix a cavity in your tooth when you had a gunshot wound to the abdomen?  I think not.  Such is the issue with changing the name of the school now.  I recognize this is a charged issue and I'm grateful for the chance for the 2651 of us who signed this petition to be heard.



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