Two school facilities and land underneath another will be named after historical Milpitas figures who had an impact on the city, following a unanimous vote by the Milpitas Unified Board of Education on Tuesday.
Former mayor Ben Gross, Milpitas Historical Society leader Mabel Mattos and businesswoman Josephine Guerrero were the names selected by the board based on suggestions from the district’s naming committee and input from the community.
Respectively, the land sited at the Milpitas Unified School District and San Jose-Evergreen Community College District extension would be named after Gross, while the future elementary school on McCandless Drive would be named after Mattos. Guerrero’s name would be used for the Family Resource Center at Robert Randall Elementary School.
During a public hearing before the board’s vote, Mattos’ family members spoke about the impact Mattos had on the community, her love for the city and how naming the new elementary school after her would honor their family.
Harriett McGuire, a Milpitas Historical Society member, said she was in favor of all three name choices. But McGuire expressed her surprise that none of the people selected for the naming of educational sites were Milpitas educators.
Margaret Rodrigues said even though her aunt was not an educator, she never came away from an interaction with her without learning something.
“She always schooled us. She was also an integral part of this community, I would say the strongest root, she knew everyone,” Rodrigues said.
James Mattos said his mother loved Milpitas with all her heart and remained dedicated to the preservation of the community. He said it would be a “great honor for mom and our family” to have the new elementary school named after her.
For the new elementary school, Mattos was favored over Dr. Albert Currlin, one of the city’s first physicians, by 64 percent. Gross was favored by 61 percent for the land at the community college extension versus Roger Chew, who developed hot house chrysanthemums. Guerrero was favored by 51 percent for Randall’s family center over Ernestina Garcia, an activist who founded the Confederacion de la Raza, a grassroots advocacy group.
According to the presentation, Mattos was largely responsible for the documentation and preservation of what we know about Milpitas, held weekly meetings about the city, conducted research for street names and funded the historical society when it was short on funding. Mattos died in 2013 at age 89.
Gross, one of the first African-American mayors in California, was also a civil rights and union activist who was part of the first integrated neighborhood association in Milpitas, Sunnyhills. Gross died in Detroit in 2012 at age 91.
Guerrero was the assistant postmaster who worked with the first postmaster of Milpitas Ben Rodgers, according to the district presentation. She also served on the planning commission and as president of the Milpitas Chamber of Commerce and founded the Milpitas Business and Professional Woman’s Club. Guerrero died last September at age 96.
Board President Daniel Bobay responded to McGuire’s comments after the board vote, saying the intent had been to name the facilities after people who had lived here or founded the city or had been in the area from “the very beginning.”
“I believe a lot of educators come here but don’t live here,” Bobay said.
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