Tensions are brewing at Hartford Elementary School in Chandler over how to honor the legacy of a former school secretary ailing from cancer.
Some at the school want to create a garden for Sylvia Encinas, who has been has been a figure at the school for 27 years, helping families get groceries if they didn’t have the money or just lending an ear to parents who need advice.
Others want to honor her on a grander scale by renaming Hartford “Encinas Elementary School” or “Hartford Elementary School in honor of Sylvia Encinas.”
A committee was formed and the school sent surveys to parents, staff members and students late last month with the majority of respondees in favor of a garden.
But some community members are crying foul because the surveys didn’t include their input. Many attended a school board meeting Wednesday night to tell board members about the situation.
DeAnn Schertz, a former Hartford teacher, said after the meeting that while she supports re-naming the school, the process was not as inclusive as it should have been.
“We’re not outsiders. Hartford has touched our lives too,” she said.
Board member Karen Clark apologized to the audience.
“When this idea was first brought forward, I was very supportive of it. I’m not sure how the process got hijacked along the way,” Clark said.
But committee member and P TO president Georgina Eschenweck said the committee followed the school board’s instructions on how to conduct the survey.
“We were given instructions on what they’d like to see done and we did that and this is the results we came up with,” Eschenweck said. “You’re not going to make everybody happy.”
Clark said she would support changing the school’s name.
“(Encinas) is by far one of the most deserving people we’ve taken into consideration (for naming a school) in my 10 years on the board,” she said.
The Chandler Unified School District hasn’t renamed a school in about 15 years and when they did, it was out of necessity, said district spokesman Terry Locke.
Denver Elementary School, now San Marcos Elementary School, changed its name after Frye Road opened up past the school and the street — which was Denver Street — was renamed by the city.
The district has a longstanding tradition of naming schools after community members who have made an impact. The district’s newest high school, Basha High School, is named after longtime community leader and local businessman Eddie Basha.
Committee member and fourth-grade teacher Juanita Vasquez said Encinas is a humble woman and has told her she “doesn’t need anything.”
In the end, Vasquez said she wants everyone to accept whatever is done to honor Encinas.
“I’m hoping no matter what the changes might be, this would be a win-win situation,” she said.