San Diego's Serra High Poised to Be Renamed ‘Canyon Hills High School'

Student-driven petition to rename school also includes a change of mascot/team names from Conquistadors to Rattlers

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The San Diego Unified School board is poised to approve the renaming of Serra High School in Tierrasanta.

The school’s current team name, the Conquistadors, would also be changed.

The board is set to vote Tuesday night on a recommendation to change the school name to the Canyon Hills Rattlers. The current primary school colors of brown and gold would be changed to red and black.

“We've been partnering with the tribal communities," said Erica Renfree, the school’s principal. "They're on board. They're superexcited, and I feel like it's a really proud moment, as the principal who facilitated it. It's really an honor to be among the students and the hard work they're doing,”

The name change was initiated last summer by two sisters who took a look into the history of the school’s name and mascot.

“A lot of students, surprisingly, didn't know the history of [Father Junipero] Serra and the Conquistadors, and it's really been an eye-opening experience for a lot of them,” student Charlotte Taila told NBC 7 last August.

Charlotte and her sister Emma initiated an online petition last summer, which drew overwhelming support.

The moves also have strong support from local Native American leaders.

School's namesake Father Junipero Serra and Conquistador mascot are called into question, reports Serra High grad and NBC reporter Artie Ojeda.

“These young people took it upon themselves to make this astounding change that means so much to my people,” said Angela Elliott-Santos, chairwoman of the Manzanita Band of Kumeyaay Nation.

Elliot-Santos also had strong criticism for the historical oppression by Serra, the school’s namesake.

“He allowed many atrocities to happen to human beings, to human beings that were living in peace and were welcoming when they arrived,” Elliott-Santos said.

Serra established California’s missions. In a statement sent to NBC7, the pastor at the San Diego de Alcala mission. Father Peter Escalante, said:

“While there are some who continue to criticize the work and legacy of Fr. Serra, his sincere desire to evangelize and bring the Gospel to Alta California cannot be denied. The Spanish missionaries brought many Native Americans to faith while also being taught the ways of European civilization. They also built presidios to separate and protect the Indians from abuse at the hands of soldiers."

"The San Diego neighborhood Tierrasanta, which translates to 'holy ground,' was part of the original 55 acres of Mission San Diego land. At the time Serra High School was built in 1976, Serra's name was chosen because he was an educator who held a doctorate degree and dedicated his life to caring for the vulnerable. A fitting tribute to Fr. Serra's history in this part of San Diego."

The changes at the high school, which the principal hopes to happen at the beginning of next school year, will also include signage with the Kumayaay “Mat Kwatup KunKun,” a translation of the word "school."

Infrastructure changes will be paid for with money from capitol-bond funds Propositions S and Z, and Measure YY.

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