The quest by Fresno’s Armenian community to have a Fresno Unified school named for an Armenian ended Wednesday night when trustees voted unanimously to change the name of Forkner Elementary School to H. Roger Tatarian Elementary, GV Wire reports.
The board’s vote came after multiple speakers addressed the board on both sides of the issue, with Armenians urging the board to change the school name and members of the Forkner community, including Principal Ryan Duff, imploring the board to maintain the status quo for the northwest Fresno school.
Duff said that students and staff at the school already have had to deal with the impacts of the pandemic, school closures, school reopening, and now are buffeted by the renaming debate.
The vote to rename Forkner, named for Fig Garden developer J.C. Forkner, put trustees in a similar situation as they were a few months ago when they voted to name the new alternative education campus at 10th Street and Ventura Avenue for local philanthropists Francine and Murray Farber instead of Tatarian — pleasing some people but angering others.
Tatarian was a Fresno native who achieved worldwide fame as editor of United Press International and who, unlike the Farbers, was overwhelmingly supported in a community survey conducted by the district on the 10th and Ventura campus naming.
The Armenian community lobbied to name the campus for Tatarian, noting that it’s in the neighborhood where he grew up and where Armenians lived because they were prevented from buying homes elsewhere in the city.
Even though Armenians make up about 7% of Fresno’s population, the city’s largest school district had no schools named for an Armenian before Wednesday’s renaming vote, which came after a lengthy comment period by community members and trustees.