Photo by Semantha Raquel Norris (SFVS/el Sol)

The Los Angeles Unified Board of Education voted unanimously this week to honor San Fernando City Councilmember Cindy Montañez by renaming Gridley Street Elementary School in her honor.

The school, located in the City of San Fernando where Montañez grew up, will become Gridley-Montañez Dual Language Academy in the 2024-2025 school year. Board Member Kelly Gonez authored the resolution.

This is the latest expression of gratitude to Montañez who has been given several statewide, LA and valley public recognitions since the community learned she was diagnosed with an aggressive cancer.

Montañez, although she can no longer walk and in a wheelchair, has attended every one of these events — receiving the many who’ve approached her and to the best of her ability has spoken — sharing a message to care about the environment and each other.

At most of these tributes her long list of accolades are noted as the youngest person ever elected to the San Fernando City Council at 25 and the youngest woman elected to the California State Legislature at the age of 28 and as part of the California Assembly, she became the first Latina and first Democratic woman to chair the powerful Assembly Committee on Rules, but as impressive as that is, Montañez has said she appreciates hearing stories shared by others about the on-the-ground work they’ve done together.

The first to recognize Montañez was at a community event organized by Javier Verdin, the co-founder of Ballet Folklorico Ollin, held at the home of Mission Hills artist Lalo Garcia. She said that event meant much to her not only because it was the first, but she said, “Because it came from the community.” Even under a very hot sun, she was delighted to see the many residents that she had come to know over the years who shared their memories and lined up to hug her. When asked if she was too tired to keep receiving people, she said, “No, I love this.”

Throughout her illness, Montañez has continued to attend council meetings and community forums.

Among the many public tributes to her, a special spot with a bench that overlooks the San Fernando Valley was recently dedicated to her at the headquarters of TreePeople, where Montañez is still the chief executive officer. A local San Fernando park has also been named in her honor with a special planting of milkweed to attract Monarch butterflies that she much loves.

Significance of Latest Recognition From School Community

This latest recognition in her hometown is also significant as it is at a school that advocates education through dual language. Montañez, the daughter of immigrant parents, is fully bilingual and has been an advocate for environmental justice and disadvantaged communities.

“It is a privilege to recognize Ms. Montañez, and I want to thank the school community for their authentic engagement in this process, for their questions and feedback, and for coming together in creating a name that honors their past and starts a bright new chapter,” said Gonez. “It’s incredibly meaningful to recognize such a trailblazing Latina leader who can serve as a source of inspiration for our students.”

“As a longtime advocate and public servant in the Los Angeles community, it is fitting and right that Gridley Elementary School will be renamed in honor of Cindy Montañez,” said Superintendent Alberto M. Carvalho. “We hope her legacy of community service is instilled in every student, family, employee and community member who walks through the doors of this amazing school.”

The Gridley school community voted overwhelmingly to honor Ms. Montañez, with 74% voting in favor of changing the school name. The school held a total of nine community meetings with different school stakeholders, including students, parents, educators and school staff before selecting Gridley-Montañez Dual Language Academy as their new name.

The school board also noted that while in her current role as chief executive officer of TreePeople, she championed environmental justice and secured $150 million in the California State Budget for school greening, which is funding numerous projects at LAUSD schools.