Formed by the El Campo school board Monday night, committee of 11 will now debate whether Northside Elementary should be renamed and, if so, what to call it.
The final decision will ultimately be made by the elected school board trustees, however, Superintendent Kelly Waters said.
The naming committee, she said, “will meet and come up with a max of three names. It can be any three it wants or none.”
There is absolutely no requirement that U.S. Army Master Sgt. Roy P. Benavidez, a Vietnam era Medal of Honor recipient, be included in the three suggested names, despite an almost five-year petition effort which resulted in 15 percent of the district voters signing in support of his name.
“The petition just kicks in the policy (creating the naming committee),” Waters said.
Members of the committee are: John Crowell, Brian Jensen, George Willis III, Paul Pope, Susan Nohavitza, Linc Lutrick, Gloria Harris, Andy Waligura, Daniel Marek, Carmen Thomas and Adam Gusman.
There is no requirement on how many times the committee should gather.
“It depends a lot on how close or how far they are from an agreement,” Waters said. “They could meet one time, they could meet several times. Ultimately, it will be the board’s decision.”
Benavidez, who died in 1998, called El Campo home most of his life. He was a regular speaker at Northside, a school currently named for its geographic location.
El Campo, however, is not a military town and the petition to rename the school in his honor has sparked waves of controversy in the community. Due to heavy attendance at recent sessions the board will move its next session to Northside Elementary.
Some have called for Northside to keep its traditional geographic name because, they say, it has always been Northside.
Others have suggested that, if any name is used, the district return EA Greer to its list of campuses. EA Greer was a black educator in El Campo who later had one of the segregated schools named after him. When Texas desegregated, the campus closed.
Names of several other local service personnel killed in action have been suggested, most with few military honors attached to their names. While for a few, the name Veterans Elementary is preferred because they said a school should not be named for just one person despite two other El Campo ISD campuses representing individuals.
Although Benavidez has received numerous honors throughout the nation, the only thing honoring him within the El Campo city limits is a highway sign marking the start of the Master Sgt. Roy P. Benavidez Highway. That honorary roadway runs from the FM 2765 intersection with Hwy. 71 north to the Colorado County line.
The master sergeant faced withering enemy fire on May 2, 1968 but saved men and documents despite life-threatening injuries.
In all, Benavidez served the nation for 21 years in the U.S. Army, retiring in 1976 and returning to El Campo. Five year later he was presented the Medal of Honor by President Ronald Reagan.
During his retirement, Benavidez traveled the nation for the price of his travel, speaking on the importance of education.
He died Nov. 29, 1998 and is buried at Fort Sam Houston in San Antonio.
His children and now grandchildren still call El Campo home.