Update: Latino Nomination for Waterbury School Name Fails in Committee

Eddie Rivera 001The family of Heriberto “Eddie” T. Rivera, a Waterbury firefighter who died while on duty 23 years ago, will not see his name attached to the city’s newest school after all. The Ad Hoc Naming Committee voted 3-2 to recommend naming the school “Waterbury Career Academy” to the Board of Education.
The board still must vote to approve the name.
When the opportunity arose to nominate names for the new school, the Rivera family thought naming it after Eddie Rivera would be a perfect way to honor his memory and inspire minority students.
Rivera was not only a firefighter, but was also a coach in the community as well. Since his death, his family has run the Rivera Memorial Foundation, a nonprofit dedicated to enriching and empowering Waterbury youths. The foundation provides scholarships and works with families and children to foster after-school and leadership activities.
“We were hoping they’d be more open to using his name,” his daughter Jessica Rivera, 29, of Waterbury, said.
The committee received several nominations for potential candidates to name the school after, including former Latino board member Eldemiro Arroyo.
Waterbury does not have a public school named after a Latino.
“We were happy to just have him as one of the nominees. As we got more support from the community, we were more driven to get that name out there . . .we’re sad about it, but we kind of suspected it wasn’t going to happen,” Rivera said.
According to a report by FOX CT, Ann Sweeney, the naming committee chair and board of education member, said the name Waterbury Career Academy made the most sense for the vocational school.
“This particular school, because of its theme, because of what it intends to do for education, really needed to have the type of name that we put forward,” she said.
In the same report, Felix Rodriguez, who is both a board member and naming committee member, disagreed, saying it would have made sense to name the school after a Latino, since 48.3 percent of Waterbury students are Latino.
“We’re the majority. It’s about time we finally recognize that growing population and name a school after them,” he said.
In an email from Tuesday afternoon Sweeney said, “At all times I was impressed by the diligence, thoughtfulness and dedication to task of the committee members. We all learned some interesting history about the lives of people who made Waterbury their home.”
She added that she is “very passionate about the connection of ‘Waterbury’ Career Academy as a testament to a school for all Waterbury students . . .and a landmark for Waterbury citizens  to be proud of.”
 
Rivera said she had been optimistic about the possibility the school could have been named after her father, but she suspected the committee and the city did not want to deviate from branding that had already been done. She said some city and school officials had been unofficially referring to the school as Waterbury Career Academy for some time.
Her family presented the option of naming the school Rivera Career Academy of Waterbury as a compromise, but it was met with little support, she said.
Rivera said her family plans to go through the nomination process again if another opportunity arises in Waterbury.

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