Alumni and community rally against renaming Analy High School

By Camille Escovedo, Staff Writer, SoCoNews, June 21, 2021

Analy High School alumni and other community members gather at Ives Park in Sebastopol to exchange information and rally against the planned rebranding and renaming of the high school consolidating with El Molino this fall, on Wednesday, June 16, 2021. (Photos by Jan Todd)

The realization that the planned consolidation of Analy and El Molino high schools this fall marks the end of Analy’s 113-year legacy has set in for its alumni and other community members and they’re not having it.

A “Save Analy” effort has formed to oppose the West Sonoma County Union High School District (WSCUHSD)’s goal to rename and rebrand the consolidated school. The group has joined up with organizers primarily connected to El Molino to recall board members who voted to proceed with the merger, said Analy Alumni Association President Loretta Castleberry.

“They are just ignoring the people who voted them in, so the only alternative you have is to vote them out,” Castleberry said, stating that when the board meetings are on Zoom, trustees don’t have to face their community.

While the association itself steers clear of politics, Castleberry and others from the independent “Save Analy” group invited community members to Ives Park in Sebastopol Wednesday, June 16 and Thursday, June 17 to exchange ideas and rally against the rebranding. Activated people in the district aim for a meeting between Analy, El Molino and Laguna High School community members in the coming times, Castleberry said.

“Analy kind of stayed in the background to begin with because we figured, well, if there’s no money, there’s no money. What are you going to do? And then, all of a sudden, it was all happening so soon and all of the sudden, they’re changing the name of our school,” she said.

Castleberry said that the group seeks to demand the school board and district cease efforts to merge the schools or rebrand until the lawsuit and recall petitions and elections are through.

“It just gets overwhelming. And it’s just not fiscally responsible when the whole premise of this to start with was because we don’t have any money. Well, now you’re spending money that you don’t have to spend? Makes no sense,” she said the Wednesday morning before the first event.

Castleberry said community members she spoke to compared losing their high school to losing Palm Drive Hospital and still paying for it, and that people are feeling unwilling to support another school bond now “because they can’t be trusted.”

She said she’d heard from older people who did not know what was happening with the situation, and that many retired community members without children in school are extremely frustrated with the use of funds for rebranding, as well.

Should consolidation come to pass, she said money wasted on rebranding could instead be used to make incoming students feel included and welcome — but not by changing the school. Paying for programming is a better use of funds in the interest of students, Castleberry said.

The board voted in March to rebrand the consolidated school to create a sense of unity among the communities, and at the time, El Molino community members spoke against consolidating at all but also expressed rebranding might be the least that could be done to support students forced to leave Forestville.

SoCoNews reported in May that the board voted to postpone the rebranding process until its budget showed more stability, with the district facing legal action regarding its consolidation decision making, as well as potential recall elections and the trustee election system changes on the way.

The board directed the superintendent to proceed with “West County High School” as a stand-in or placeholder name so students could have a shared identity and sports uniforms at its May 12 meeting without a formal vote, SoCoNews reported then.

“We have asked the board to halt everything until this lawsuit is settled, until the recall is settled and they just are ignoring everybody and going full-steam ahead. It’s just ridiculous,” Castleberry said, taking issue also with the costs for temporary sports uniforms and then their official replacements.

The alumni association president claimed that only 13% of the 800 community members surveyed for suggestions on a new name, mascot and colors supported a name along the lines of the school’s current place holder name, “West County High School.”

A pamphlet provided to SoCoNews advocating to keep Analy’s name and legacy also stated about 13% wanted “West County High School,” and that the school board “had reversed the pause and decided to continue with the rebranding,” going forward with this as the new name “yet to be voted on.”

That’s not entirely true, according to information provided by Superintendent Toni Beal in a June 18 email. She said that while 48% of the 800 surveyed wanted to keep a same name, 25% proposed “West County” or “West Sonoma County High” and 27% put forward alternative names.

Analy High School alumni and other community members gathered at Ives Park in Sebastopol to rally against the planned rebranding and renaming of the consolidated high school. (Photos by Jan Todd)

“The permanent renaming of Analy High School is still paused,” Beal wrote. She also stated the board directed “West County High School” to be the interim name and that the district will wait until students return to school in August to survey them and get feedback on a new name, mascot and colors, involving the student design team’s previous work from the past spring.

While she did not directly answer by email how much rebranding the school would cost in total, Beal wrote that the renaming cost was included in the estimate of how much consolidation would save.

“At the time, the estimated cost for uniforms was figured at close to $175,000. Any site changes, such as painting or changing of signs, flooring or marques, would happen as facilities are repaired and updated in the normal upgrade process. The entire process would happen over a period of years,” she stated.

As for the temporary band and sports uniforms using “West County” in its name, the costs are estimated at about $20,000, Beal wrote.

So far, the district doesn’t have an estimate for how much the lawsuit will cost the district, according to the superintendent, but the date is set for Sept. 22 for court.

 

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