Kendale Elementary School will keep its name.
That decision came less than 24 hours after a public hearing turned out hundreds of students, parents, faculty and incensed residents, loudly objecting to renaming their 44- year-old school the “Diaz-Balart Elementary School.”
The person or group proposing a name change was undisclosed during the sometimes stormy session conducted by Dr. Alex Martinez, South Region superintendent, on Oct. 9. The meeting was interrupted often by cheering and noisy applause for those speaking against the change.
“Who asked for this change?” asked resident Daisy Scarry, first in a line of more than 20 who stood to declare their opposition to the change over a microphone and ask for more details about the procedure.
“I’m not permitted to provide that name at this time,” said Dr. Martinez who explained that information could only be provided in response to a specific request through the Citizens Information Department. He provided a 305-995-1128 telephone number to initiate such queries.
On Oct. 23, the School District released a letter dated Sept. 24 from Daphne Ardizon, of Kendall, asking for the change to honor former U.S. Rep. Lincoln Diaz-Balart for serving “our community admirably for over 20 years.”
School Board member Carlos Curbelo,who briefly addressed the session, said he was prevented by Sunshine Law or policy restrictions to answer such inquiries at the time of the hearing, adding he had “a longtime interest in the school since he and his wife had made Kendale their first home.”
Delayed 15 minutes from an advertised 6:30 p.m. starting time as an overflow crowd got seated, the session ended at 7:25 p.m. when Dr. Martinez only heard total silence when he asked if anyone favored a name change.
“It’s clear to me what the overwhelming majority of you want,” he said, promptly closing the hearing. By noon the next day, he had forwarded the “no re-naming” decision to Kendale Elementary.
“Keep Kendale Name” was plastered on a giant 20-foot wide paper banner, erected along the school cafetorium wall as students waved dozens of homemade posters with identical sentiments while one-by-one, parents and faculty took turns at a microphone to denounce changing the school name.
“As a 45-year resident of the Village of Kendale, with two grown children who attended Kendale Elementary, I can’t imagine any reason to change the name of this Arated neighborhood school with a fine reputation,” said Diane Lawrence, an officer of the Kendale Homeowners Association.
Earlier, Dr. Martinez had patiently explained to the packed turnout that he was required to follow a School Board Policy 7250 “Commemoration of School Facilities” that requires three or more public hearings if someone asks the school board for a name change. “We get many such name changing requests in our office,” advised Valtena Brown, chief of School Operations.
“We follow the procedure to find out as much information as we can from the school involved during public hearings. “It was abundantly clear in this case what the Kendale school and community wanted,” she said.
According to the policy statement, the school board considers “recommendations from the community and other interested or impacted parties when approving proposed names for new school facilities and renaming of existing facilities.”