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Oñate High School Name Will Change To Organ Mountains

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The Las Cruces School Board voted Tuesday on a new name for Oñate High School. The new name will become official in time for the 2021-22 school year. 

 

The board voted in a 4-1 decision to change the name of Oñate High School to Organ Mountains. Ray Jaramillo was the only board member to vote against the change.

 

Board member Maria Flores said she felt called by the community to vote yes.

 

“I’ve been on the board for twelve years and we’ve never had all the money that we need, ever, since I’ve been on the board,” Flores said. “So I feel that yes...we’re in a pandemic. It is an emergency, but there’s another emergency. There’s the emergency of equity and the emergency of racism.” 

 

The board was presented with a survey taken in late July asking the Oñate community for their thoughts on the new name. Out of the over 1,100 responses, the top choice for a new name was Organ Mountain High School with 324 responses.  School Board President Terrie Dallman  advocated for making the name plural. 

 

 394 people wrote the name should stay the same.  

 

Las Cruces School Board Member Carol Cooper, who originally voted for the name change last month, attempted to annul the original July 14 vote to change the name of Oñate. 

 

“When I voted to change the name I did not focus on the loss of identity to the past students and the present students,” Cooper said. “Their identity as having gone to this wonderful school.” 

 

School Board President Terrie Dallman said her motion was out of order and made a parliamentary ruling against Cooper, citing her motion undermined the democratic process. Dallman’s ruling passed, with no objection from any board members besides Cooper. 

 

“All board members were afforded equal time to formulate their opinion,” Dallman said. “We all researched, we studied, we heard various input and feedback from students, community members and other respected constituents.” 

 

Edward Ellison, the district’s chief financial officer, gave a detailed cost analysis concerning the cost of the name change. He estimated the cost at a little over $158,000.

 

All of the public comments read at Tuesday’s meeting centered on the renaming.  

 

Some expressed concern about the financial responsibility of the district and that the funds needed to rename the school should be used to help offset unexpected costs from the pandemic.  

 

“The number of people in favor of keeping the name were overwhelmingly higher than for changing the name,” one comment read. “Please reconsider the stance taken on this issue, our students' educational future is at risk already and adding an additional screen is extremely foolish.” 

 

Others felt the board should not go back on a vote they already made and expressed moral concerns about the name. 

 

“I read with interest the decision to readdress your vote regarding the renaming of Oñate High School,” another community member wrote. “Please do not reconsider this decision. Keeping the name only serves to perpetuate the ongoing marginalization of minority populations.”

 

 Ultimately, that concern took precedent for many of the board members.