West County students walk out against vote to reinstate Analy name

By Camille Escovedo, Staff Writer, SoCoNews, December 7, 2021

elmo protest

Students walked out of school on Dec. 2 in protest of the West Sonoma County Union High School District Board of Trustees' vote to reverse its decision to rebrad the consolidated high school campus, reinstating its former Analy name.

Students rolled out of West Sonoma County High School (WCHS) Thursday morning for a walkout against the west county school board’s Dec. 1 4-1 vote to reverse the decision to rebrand the consolidated high school, reinstating the Analy High School name.

West County High School is the bridge name the West Sonoma County Union High School District (WSCUHSD) board of trustees previously directed Superintendent Toni Beal to use for the school until more financial information became available and students could be consulted.

Student board representative Dylan Peña Pérez said the walkout was swiftly organized by students in leadership class, without the involvement of their teacher Mike Roan.

“I’m pretty upset with the whole thing because in the beginning, we already decided that it was going to be West County and then they decided to change it out of nowhere. I’m just honestly upset with the whole school board,” said sophomore Bella Carver.

In her view as a former El Molino student, students who’ve had to leave the deeper west county area to attend school in Sebastopol have not been respected in this process.

Exuberant high schoolers looped around Taft and Wallace streets and marched downtown with signs in support of keeping the West County school name, while some blasted Rick Astley’s “Never Gonna Give You Up.” Numerous students wore their red, white and blue West County High shirts and other spirit-wear.

Administrators and staff, including Beal, were also there, following the students mostly from the back of the procession. A Sebastopol police vehicle appeared to track the stream of students.

The march paused for chanting at the Sebastopol Gazebo led by a small group of students.

“We were promised a new school,” one student stated from the elevated stage. “I’m proud of this new school and I know you guys are, too, right?” The crowd cheered and clapped. “When I say, ‘Let’s go,’ you say, ‘West Co,’ alright?” he said, and off they went.

Students surged into the Barlow and turned on Morris Street to round the corner, sweeping between Community Market and Victoria Farmstead Meat Company to head back to class — or not.

Back on campus, Principal Shauna Ferdinandson shared with SoCoNews that she is deeply proud of what the students have done to develop a sense of togetherness.

“Unity is an action,” she said, not a “contrived” or abstract thing. Ferdinandson said she recognizes unity in students discussing their perspectives in class, working together on the football field and staff learning to trust one another. It doesn’t mean everyone agrees with each other, she said, but that there is a shared belonging that holds even when people see things differently.

What she could say in her role as principal about the board’s decision is that anything that disrupts the progress or sense of unity generated by the school community makes for a difficult day at the high school.

Dance teacher Jolene Johnson said, “I’m walking for the students, for our deep west county families that have not been heard at all these board meetings and because I feel like the decision to change it back to Analy is unfair and elitist,” said dance teacher Jolene Johnson.

She took issue with the way El Molino High School community members are constantly outnumbered, so survey results would tend to tilt toward Analy. Johnson likened this to the board of trustees largely supporting Analy. She said she wanted to show students that teachers care and that the unity they’ve forged “is a beautiful thing and we should keep it.”

“We really weren’t expecting this many students,” said Peña Pérez, adding that their numbers demonstrate that students do in fact care about the board’s decisions.

This article was produced by SoCoNews. See more news at soconews.org