Central Valley 4th Grader is Determined to Change his School’s Name

His name is Malachi Suarez… remember that name! Malachi is a fourth-grader at James K. Polk Elementary school in the Central Valley. He became internet famous after petitioning and appealing to the Central Valley Unified School Board to rename his school. After researching former President James K. Polk and the namesake of the school, Malachi created an online petition at www.Change.org asking for support in requesting the district rename the school. 

The petition reads: 

I request your help with changing the name of James K. Polk Elementary School in Central Unified School District.

James K. Polk was a slave owner and he was against abolition. He also embraced the term manifest destiny. Manifest Destiny means God says that European American settlers are better than people of color, and European American settlers are more deserving of the land. Polk used the idea of manifest destiny to gain support for his war with Mexico. The main reason he provoked a war with Mexico was to acquire the western territory.”

You can read the entire petition here.

Currently, there are 2,464 signatures with a stated goal of 2,500.

Malachi has personally addressed the school board on numerous occasions during public comments, but he was also given 25 minutes to address the board when he initially brought in his request in August of 2021. Click here for the link to Malachi’s presentation on the Polk Elementary School renaming. 

The name of Polk Elementary remains unchanged, despite the fact that Malachi has over two thousand signatures on the petition and has addressed the board with community support. When looking at the school website, you won’t find any mention of the request to rename the school. The school website can be found here.

I watched a few meetings and found the Board of Education to be dismissive of the request and, at times, even hostile! I watched one meeting from September on the district YouTube channel and was shocked by comments from some board members.  

During public comment, Gabriel Suarez called in after the board president only gave the public 30 seconds to call in. Because of the quality, I could not understand what was being said. In addition, transcriptions provided by YouTube are not available during this phone call portion. I also learned that Trustee Paul did not want to entertain public comments during the September meeting. It does appear that the Suarez family, in general, is very vocal. Aside from his request to change the name of the school, Malachi called in during the meeting to address problems with homeschooling. 

Yesenia Carrillo is the Board President. During the meeting, she announced that there is a committee being formed to review school names and mascot names to identify if any changes should be made. 

We will continue to monitor the story for any updates. If you’d like to help Malachi, please sign his petition. Also, consider writing to the school board and committee in favor of renaming the school. Click here for information on the board of trustees and use the information below for any correspondence. 

Central Unified School District

Physical Address: 5652 W. Gettysburg, Fresno, CA 93722

Mail Address: 4605 N. Polk Ave, Fresno, CA 93722

(559) 274-4700 |  (559) 271-8200

[email protected]

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Leticia Chavez-Garcia

Leticia Chavez-Garcia

Leticia Chavez-Garcia is a Mother, Grandmother, former Middle School Teacher, former Member of a School Board of Education and an Education Advocate for hundreds of parents and students in the Inland Empire. Having become a mother at 15, Leticia knows what it’s like to be a single mother trying to navigate the education system. Leticia received her Bachelor of Science Degree in Political Science and Public Administration from California Baptist University and a Masters’ Degree in Education Technology from Cal State Fullerton in her 30’s. Leticia has used her knowledge and experience to help hundreds of families as an Education Advocate in the Inland Empire and currently works as an Education Specialist.

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