Superintendent Shawn Tennenbaum said he will move forward with a plan to ask the public for names. Photos by John Chadwell.
Superintendent Shawn Tennenbaum said he will move forward with a plan to ask the public for names.

The San Benito High School Board of Trustees continued its discussion on June 11 regarding its policy on naming buildings and other areas of the campus.

When the board first broached the topic on May 28, trustee Juan Robledo said he believed there may have been a Brown Act violation because other trustees tossed out names they already had in mind.

Superintendent Shawn Tennenbaum said at the same meeting he would present a list of possible facilities to be named, and the board could prioritize which ones to name first.

Instead, a week later on June 11, he shared a few thoughts about how to proceed in order to carry the discussion further at the June 25 meeting. He mentioned four buildings already named for people closely associated with the school:

  • The Mattson Gym, named in 1990 after Bob Mattson, educator, coach and athletic director at SBHS for 38 years.
  • The O’Donnell Gym, named after Joseph Martin O’Donnell, M.D. and school board member between 1921 and 1955.
  • The Andy Hardin Football Field/Stadium, named in 1962 after Andy Hardin, educator and coach for 35 years.
  • The James P. Davis Library, named after James P. Davis, a teacher, principal and superintendent between 1896 and 1940.

In addition, Tennenbaum said the Rajkovich Ag Building was named in honor of Martin Peter Rajkovich, a farmer and supporter of the SBHS Ag Department. The Rajkovich family donated $900,000 for the new building.

Tennenbaum said there were as many as 13 buildings that might be named. He said the list was not inclusive or exclusive, and did not mean they must name everything. Trustee Patricia Nehme called out, “Thank God,” indicating her opinion that there was no need to name all the buildings.

Tennenbaum said there were also a number of new areas that could be named, such as the stadium press box, concessions building, a locker room, science robotics building, softball field, parking lots, and others. He asked the board if they would want to consider giving names to a small cluster of two or three buildings, or just one at a time after vetting them through the community.

Nehme said she was concerned that for every name they came up with it would result in two or three more suggestions.

“That really freaks me out because there are so many things here,” she said. “One at a time is great. I just don’t feel right naming a whole bunch of buildings.”

Trustee John Corrigan said naming a building after someone is an honor. He said the board should not feel it necessary to name any building unless it was after someone whose level of philanthropy or dedication reached “above and beyond.” He said it was more about an exceptional person being honored, rather than having a building or field and then trying to figure out who it should be named after.

Tennenbaum agreed and said picking a name comes down to how people feel about an individual’s impact on the school.

After hearing comments from his fellow trustees, Robledo said he felt better about the process than he did on May 28. He apologized for any “hurt feelings” he may have caused when he referenced the Brown Act, which he said was a description rather than an accusation. He wasn’t in favor of immediately naming buildings or the baseball field, but suggested that when someone who has a connection to baseball does something exceptional, then perhaps it could be named after them. He said because voters approved two school bond measures amounting to nearly $100 million, it would be good to ask the community for ideas. Between Measures M and U, property taxes increased $59.73 per $100,000 assessed value of a home.

“As you can see, the community is not here,” Robledo said, motioning to the empty room (except for this reporter). “One of our goals is to get more community input. So, we go out there, and if there are no takers, at least we did it.”

Corrigan suggested that the community be asked to provide names to pick from. Tennenbaum said what he learned from the conversation is to let a person’s service or accomplishments drive the naming process, and the importance of engaging the public. He said taking those two points into consideration, he would come up with an information-action agenda item for the June 25 meeting.


Other related BenitoLink articles:

SBHS trustees discuss naming new facilities




John Chadwell worked as a feature, news and investigative reporter for BenitoLink on a freelance basis for seven years, leaving the role in Sept. 2023. Chadwell first entered the U.S. Navy right out of...