Education / Schools

San Benito High School District exploring changing school name

Consultant speaks to board on new Hollister high school.
ASB President Antonio Lara speaking to the board of trustees about the need to change San Benito High School's name. Photo by Jenny Mendolla Arbizu.
ASB President Antonio Lara speaking to the board of trustees about the need to change San Benito High School's name. Photo by Jenny Mendolla Arbizu.
Superintendent Tennenbaum (left) presenting ASB President Antonio Lara (right) with a Baler Strong award.
Superintendent Tennenbaum (left) presenting ASB President Antonio Lara (right) with a Baler Strong award. "You truly are Baler Strong," Tennenbaum told Lara. "You made history this evening." Photo by Jenny Mendolla Arbizu.

On Nov. 9, the San Benito High School District Board of Trustees unanimously voted in favor of undertaking the process of changing the school’s name to Hollister High School. The motion followed a board discussion with a representative from Capital PFG regarding the financial and strategic implications of building a new high school in Hollister. 

With support from San Benito High School District Superintendent Shawn Tennenbaum, Associated Student Body President Antonio Lara approached the board by introducing himself as “Antonio Lara.” He explained that while he is known as Antonio, his legal name is Juan Antonio Lara.

“Why do I bring that up?” Lara asked. “Because just like San Benito High School, a lot of our community members reference it as Hollister High School.”

He noted that former SBHS science teacher Bill Johnson approached the ASB in 2019 about pursuing the name change. Lara conducted research on the high school’s history and the significance of its name change. 

He pointed out that cities such as Salinas and Gilroy named their first high schools after the city they’re in. He also said that the San Benito High School’s block “H” logo, displayed on letterman jackets and on cars, has been widely thought of standing for its Haybaler mascot. 

“But it was actually designed as an ‘H’ for Hollister,” Lara said. 

He noted that the block letters from nearby high schools stand for the schools’ names, such as the P for Palma, the S for Salinas, and the G for Gilroy.

“Meanwhile the block H from San Benito High School represents San Benito High School? I think you get the point,” Lara said. “My goal is to end the confusion.”

Trustee Juan Robledo reiterated Lara’s concern, saying the matter of the school’s name change has been discussed since he was the high school’s activities director in 2009. 

“The San Benito County Board of Supervisors voted in favor of naming this school Hollister High School, because the people on that board were old-timers,” Robledo said. He said the ASB president at the time, Sam Doty, took the motion to the San Benito High School District Board just as Lara did, but the board was not in favor of the name change. 

“People have been wanting this for a while,” Robledo said. “When Bill Johnson went to talk to the ASB, he also talked to a lot of other teachers. He was really shooting for it.” 

Board President John Corrigan agreed with Lara, recalling an incident at a water polo tournament in Watsonville. Watsonville students asked why Corrigan’s shirt had the “H” logo on it if the school was called San Benito High School.

Lara said that, with the board discussing the construction of a new high school, he wanted it to be known that alumni and current students of San Benito High School could be “a little devastated if a new school would possibly be called Hollister High School.”

Jeff Small from Capitol Public Finance Group spoke to the board about the fiscal impacts and strategic implications of building a new high school on the Best Road site in Hollister, a parcel owned by the district. He noted that SBHS has a capacity for approximately 3,437 students and the enrollment is currently at 3,423. 

He said current projections show enrollment growth of 237 students over the next two years from existing housing development projects. 

Small said that even with funds already acquired from developer fees ($13.8 million) and potential state funding ($36 million), that a $73 million shortfall in funding is anticipated. Robledo asked if it was possible to ease into construction by building a satellite high school for approximately 1,000 students. 

Tennenbaum said that the district would want to take a “logical, strategic approach with the second high school so that we can support the students, but also do it in a realistic fashion.” 

“Finding the ideal site, and the proximity and size of the site, is really critical,” Tennenbaum said. “We have to be forecasting 20 to 30 years down the road, at what housing development is possible around it, what the amenities are, how big it can get. Is it a walkable site? Is it a pedestrian site? There are really critical aspects to be looking at.” 

Corrigan added that San Benito County residents have already been very generous with the past two bond measures, “and it’s imperative that we seek out every alternative source of funding in order to build that.”

 

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Jenny Mendolla Arbizu

Jenny is a Hollister native who resides in her hometown with her husband and son. She is a San Benito High School graduate, and received her BA in Literature from UC Santa Cruz and her MA in Education from San Jose State University. Jenny has written for the Hollister Freelance, San Benito and South Valley magazines. She enjoys meeting new people in San Benito County, sharing breaking news with the community, and spotlighting the county’s events and businesses. When not writing, Jenny can be found performing with SBSC, singing with the Hollister VFW, or working out at Cold Storage CrossFit.