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New Name Will Be Chosen For Oñate High School In Las Cruces

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  What’s in a name?

That’s the question Las Cruces school board members debated Tuesday in response to a motion calling for the renaming of Oñate High School.

In a 3-1 vote, the Las Cruces school board moved to select a name they believe will better reflect the identity of the school community.

Many submitted comments reminding the board of Oñate’s history—including his banishment from New Mexico and the atrocities Native Americans faced.

Others argued the district did not have the money to spare. The board reviewed a survey where parents, students and other community members shared input. Over 1,300 people voted to change the name while more than 4,100 voted for it to stay the same.

Despite the public opinion, School Board President Terrie Dallman felt a moral obligation to vote for a new name.

“This is an issue that has come up several times,” Dallman said. “And even before, a year and a half ago, when I brought it up, it had come up again before that. And I will choose to vote on the right side of history.”

According to the budget presented to the board, a total rebranding, which includes purchasing new signs and uniforms would start at a little over $183,000.

One popular idea is to find another name that starts with o to save on cost, such as Organ Mountains High School. Even that would require more than $158,000.

Board member Ray Jaramillo, who voted against the change, felt it irresponsible to spend funds on a new name in the middle of the pandemic—especially when so many people voted against a new name.

“I think it’s important that we take into consideration the public that we represent,” Jaramillo said. “It was overwhelming that they didn’t want to change it. I feel that it should be changed. But I also feel that the cost, and the dealing with the pandemic and life and death should be a priority at this moment.”

The board discussed other ways to pay for the change, including looking for a grant.

Board member Carol Cooper voted for a new name, but knows that lasting change can only come from the community.

 “I believe it should open the door to a greater learning experience.” Cooper said. “Changing a name all by itself is not going to change how we act with each other. What is going to change how we behave with each other is what happens within each of our hearts and that comes from understanding.”

The Las Cruces school board will meet at a later date to decide on a new name.