The eagerly anticipated culmination of a long community process to rename the former Le Conte Elementary School was achieved this past weekend when workers installed the new name – Sylvia Mendez School.When students return to school on Monday, Aug. 27, they’ll be greeted by the new name in capital letters above the main entrance and the school auditorium.
Ms. Mendez is a school desegregation icon, as the child at the center of the landmark 1947 case, Mendez v. Westminster, in which her parents and neighbors fought against segregated education for children of Mexican descent in southern California. That case dismantled “separate but equal” schooling in California, and paved the way for the national ban on segregated schools in Brown vs. Board of Education seven years later.
After retiring from a career as a pediatric nurse, Ms. Mendez devoted her life to telling the story of her family and the legacy of the case, and in 2011 she received the Presidential Medal of Freedom from President Obama for her advocacy for educational opportunity for “children of all backgrounds and all walks of life.”
The School Board approved the name change at its May 23rd meeting this year, following an intensive collaborative process that was triggered a year earlier by petitions from Le Conte parents and staff to choose a new name for the school.
A celebration of the renaming is being planned for Sept. 14. Details will be announced later.