The Willcox School District Board is leaving the issue of naming and/or dedicating buildings in someone’s honor to a committee to be formed by the district superintendent.
That was the consensus after a long discussion on the subject and a plea by Carmen Arroyo, mother of Raymond Arroyo, who was rescued from harm’s way by Willcox High School maintenance supervisor Gus Morales during a shooting on campus March 1, 2012.
Carmon Arroyo addressed the board: “I am here about naming our new building in our High school with the name of Mr. Gus Morales. As you all know on March 1, 2012 we experienced a horrible shooting at our high school’s baseball field. Mr. Gus Morales did a heroic action that day. He put himself in jeopardy by saving not only my son, but the lives of everyone else who was in that area. If he would not have stopped, my son and who knows how many other students, parents and coaches would have been killed. The shooter was indeed ready to kill but Mr. Morales put his life in danger to save our children. Here today are students, parents and families that have been affected by this tragedy, and agree to name the building after this wonderful individual.”
At the time of the shooting, two students were backing out onto Bus Barn Road at the high school to get a bucket of balls near the high school baseball field, where junior varsity players were preparing for practice and the varsity was preparing for a game. The suspect, Arthur Tineo, was standing outside of the school campus on Airport Road and shot at the vehicle, putting a single hole in the back windshield, spraying glass and shrapnel onto one of the students inside the vehicle.
Both boys jumped out of the vehicle, and the driver, Raymond Arroyo, turned toward the gunman, yelling “What the hell?” said Morales, who saw the incident occur. The gunman then raised the rifle toward them. The other student, Chris Granado, who was hurt with shrapnel, yelled that the man had a gun and he began running in toward the gym.
Morales, driving a van on Bus Barn Road at the time, said he told Arroyo to jump in his van, and he began backing away as he called 9-1-1, at which time the man raised the gun and shot again, but it hit a tree near the baseball field.
No one else was hurt in the incident, and Tineo was arrested a short time later after leaving the scene.
After Carmen Arroyo spoke, Superintendent Dr. Richard Rundhaug said, “We would like direction from the board on the naming process, as we don’t want to have a committee spend a lot of time on it and then have the board say, ‘No, that’s not what we want. Start over.’ We may want to consider other options, such as a hall of fame for people making contributions. We want as many people involved with the process as possible, including public hearings by the committee, so it is more of a unifying process than a divisive process.”
Rundhaug said there is a policy already in place, but that he felt the issue was “pretty political” and wanted more public input.
Board member Dwayne Owen said he had concerns about naming a building after a person, as he has heard about many retiring teachers who have done big things that may have saved the lives of students in the past.
Supporting Arroyo, Donna Clough said, “If Gus hadn’t stopped him, is there any question of who the building would be named after?” (meaning Tineo’s possible victims)
“I’m not disputing (Morales’) heroics, but I like a hall of fame where more than one person can be recognized,” he said.
President Debra Ellis said she is not in favor of naming buildings after people, but “I am in favor of recognizing people … I know of teachers who have gotten between students with knives.”
Board member Bill Nolan said, “This is not a decision for us to make, but for a committee to study the best way to honor people of service to the district. We need to establish a policy to do this as we move forward. It’s a very emotional issue.
“I’m not opposed to the concept of naming a building, but we should decide if that’s the way we want to proceed.”
Owen added, “If the community is behind it, I’m OK with it.”
Rundhaug said the questions the committee should answer are:
• How will we honor or recognize people who have made contributions to the district?
• Do we want to name buildings?
• What are the alternatives and do we want to use a combination of both?
Anyone interested in being a committee member should contact Patti Gallagher, the superintendent’s administrative assistant at 384-8600.
“We need input so we don’t do something divisive,” Rundhaug said.