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Building a Memorial on Sacred Ground

Updated: Jan 3

Many community members have reached out regarding the post shown in Figure 1 that was sent out from the school district today, December 13th. Let it be known to the community that the Santa Fe Ten Memorial Foundation was not consulted by the SFISD Board of Trustees or school district representatives regarding the potential use of this 4 acre property.

I do not take one single breath where I am not aware of the permanent void and the gaping hole in my heart. The Memorial is an artistic expression of that central void. Our 10 angels deserve recognition on the property where they took their last breath in the form of a permanent Memorial. They all died heroes, looking death in the face, many sacrificing their own lives for classmates and teachers. -- Pam Stanich, mother of Jared Black

Our organization has operated in full transparency and partnership with the school district and we will continue to conduct ourselves with integrity, competence and resilience, but we would like to take this opportunity to clarify some misconceptions regarding the historical evolution of the intended location of the Memorial. Below is a timeline, with supporting evidence, describing our position as it relates to the Santa Fe Ten Memorial and the importance that it be build on sacred ground. Other school districts that have respectfully and successfully memorialized their deceased and recognized their survivors on campus or abutting school buildings and venues are included as precedent examples.


Figure 1. Notice of school board action taken at December 12th meeting.

 

Organization Background

The Santa Fe High School Memorial Committee was established in approximately September of 2018, and an invite to join the committee for the purpose of “reviewing offers of memorial donations and the development of [a] permanent memorial at SFHS,” was sent by Jacqueline Shuman, EdD; Assistant Superintendent for Curriculum & Instruction to potential members. At that time, the committee was comprised of mostly school district employees, one family representative (Shannan Claussen, Christian Riley Garcia’s mother), and a handful of community members regularly attended. During the summer of 2018, families of the deceased were provided assurances from the district that a permanent Memorial would be built in front of the high school to recognize the lives lost and a sign was placed in the approximate location as a commitment to that promise (Figure 2).


Figure 2. The “Future Santa Fe Strong Memorial” sign was placed on site at SFHS during the summer of 2018. Photo credit: Marie D. De Jesús, Houston Chronicle.


In July 2019, the committee formalized our vision and began the process of forming a 501(c)(3) non-profit organization named the Santa Fe Ten Memorial Foundation. In November 2019, we officially incorporated and received our tax exemption status. The purpose of setting up the 501(c)(3) was as follows:

  1. To establish a mechanism for soliciting stakeholder input from the following three groups: family members of the deceased, school district staff, and community members.

  2. To invite all ten families of the victims to participate at their discretion and comfort level.

  3. To ensure the donated funds would be used towards the Memorial and other charitable acts in honor of the Ten.

  4. To set up a Board of Directors for conducting Foundation business in a fair and transparent manner that is representative of the three stakeholder groups above.

 

Memorial Location Precedents

More than 18 months were spent researching memorial precedents before beginning our own design process. The library at Columbine High School (Littleton, CO) was completely renovated and renamed the Hope Columbine Memorial Library. Their memorial resides next to the football field (Figure 3A). Marjory Stoneman Douglas High School in Parkland, FL has already completed their on-campus memorial and it was dedicated February 14, 2022. They have two memorials on campus. The original memorial is located near their school sign where the temporary crosses were first placed. Once the crosses were removed and provided to the families, that area was cleaned up and converted to a love garden. The new memorial is located near Building 12 (Figure 3B). Sandy Hook Elementary (Newtown, MA) was demolished and a new school built on the same footprint. A plot of land abutting the school property was donated by the Boys Social and Athletic Club of Sandy Hook for their memorial which was just completed in time for the 10-year anniversary (Figure 3C). The National 9/11 Pentagon Memorial (Arlington, VA) is located just outside the wall of the Pentagon and was safely integrated into the area next to one of the most secure buildings in the entire world (Figure 3D). In all examples the location where the tragedy occurred is within line of sight from the completed memorial.


 

Location of the Memorial

The intended location of the Santa Fe Ten Memorial has always been at SFHS where the district placed the sign, committed to building the Memorial to the families, and our Foundation has subsequently completed the concept design and raised funds. There were two meetings, a public workshop on 6/8/2020 and a board meeting on 6/18/2020, where the location of the Memorial was discussed and presented, and a subsequent motion passed unanimously by the Board of Trustees. To support this position, the following excerpts and video links are provided below.

1. Workshop Meeting – June 8, 2020, https://www.youtube.com/watch?v=im4hsQgs_YI

  • At 0:14:30 the location was clearly described in the proposal.

  • At ~0:33:00 there is discussion about locking down the location and at 0:34:25 Ms. Megan Grove, Chair of the Santa Fe Ten Memorial Foundation, specifically requested approval of the location as part of the concept design.

2. Board Meeting – June 18, 2020, https://www.youtube.com/watch?v=8pC1KVSALYk

  • At 2:01:30, Mr. Bob Atkins read the following description, “The Santa Fe Ten Memorial Foundation researched and discussed existing memorials, designs, and precedents from July through December of 2019 which included considers of materials, timelines, site location, symbolism, and costs. The Santa Fe Ten Memorial inclusion concepts include the collaborative design process began in January 2020 with support from the University of Houston Gerald D. Hines College of Architecture and Design and concluded in March of 2020 with a design final concept approved by the Foundation Board of Directors on March 19th, 2020. The concept renderings and site locations were presented and shared with the board in a board workshop on June 8th. Funds for the Memorial will be raised and donated by the Santa Fe Ten Memorial Foundation. At this time, the Santa Fe Ten Memorial Foundation is requesting that you approve the concept renderings as designed.”

  • Mr. Eric Davenport’s motion read as follows, “Mr. President, I’d like to make a motion that we move that the board approve the initial design concept for the May 18th, 2018, Memorial as presented by the Santa Fe Ten Memorial Foundation subject to the final written agreement to be executed by the Board of Trustees at Santa Fe ISD and the Santa Fe Ten Memorial Foundation.” The motion passed unanimously.

 

Future Location

After two years of obtaining additional feedback from families of the victims, survivors, students, school district staff, community members and legal and security experts, our Foundation proposed an alternative site for the Memorial near the baseball field and sent the following request on September 29, 2022, to our Board of Trustees sub-committee liaisons.


At this stage of the process, we need to finalize materials and colors, add the 9/11 Survivor Tree seedling location to the design plans, and incorporate additional feedback from the Board of Trustees into the design, such as fencing, signage, or other recommendations. Our Memorial Community Development Team is ready to get to work.
As a next step, we would like to invite the architecture teams on site to assess the small plot by the baseball field (between the hill and parking lot) that we have previously discussed with the sub-committee so that they can provide their expert recommendations on how the Memorial site could be incorporated into that location. We are asking for a non-binding agreement by the SFISD Board of Trustees which will allow the Foundation to explore and prepare revised renderings of the Santa Fe Ten Memorial near the baseball field. Please let us know if the Trustees would entertain this proposal for due consideration.

We did not receive a response to our request, rather the SFISD Board of Trustees voted to offer an off-campus location to the City of Santa Fe at the board meeting held on October 17, 2022, https://www.youtube.com/watch?v=R_-SXhmn33E.

Public comments begin at 1:33:00. The district’s attorney presents at 2:13. The trustees’ deliberations begin at 2:51:00.


Important points not presented or discussed at the board meeting are highlighted below:

  • There has been ongoing discussion regarding the definition of “maintenance” and responsible parties that would provide funding support for such tasks. The maintenance budget developed by SFISD was not presented to us for consideration and review prior to the board meeting. The Foundation has always intended to assist with a portion of ongoing care of the Memorial and that has been repeatedly communicated to the district.

  • The original option presented in June 2020 was that SFISD and the Santa Fe Ten Memorial Foundation were working in partnership and the designs, plans and funding would be donated to the SFISD for the purpose of constructing the Memorial as part of a collaborative effort. SFISD can build the Memorial on their own property, just as Marjory Stoneman Douglas and other school districts have done.

  • The three options presented by the SFISD attorney to donate, lease, or sell real property, are not the only three options available to have the Memorial built. SFSID can honor their commitment to families of the victims, surviving students and staff, and community, and build the Memorial on their own property in partnership and with support and assistance from the Santa Fe Ten Memorial Foundation.


The personal statements from the victims’ families and Foundation members and supplementary material provided at the board meeting will be shared in a series of subsequent posts.


History can not be changed, and the legacy of the Ten will always live here.

To every person that showed up at a vigil. Every person that said, "Let me know if there is anything I can do." Every person that continues to live with the impact of that day. We need your help. Please take a few minutes to send a respectful and personal email to each of the SFISD Board of Trustees describing why it is important that the Santa Fe Ten Memorial be built at the high school rather than an off campus location that has no relevance or connection to the event. Our 10 are never coming home from school and thousands of others affected deserve a beautiful and inspirational place of remembrance.


Copy and paste the list of email addresses below. Note that the trustees will not be able to "reply to all" to your comments due to the establishment of a quorum on the email thread, but individual conversations may be established at the discretion of both parties.

matt.crable@sfisd.org; patrick.kelly@sfisd.org; eric.davenport@sfisd.org; clay.hertenberger@sfisd.org; james.grassmuck@sfisd.org; rusty.norman@sfisd.org; angie.lambert@sfisd.org; kevin.bott@sfisd.org; sftenmemorialfoundation@gmail.com





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