The Long Beach Unified School District Board of Education approved new names for two schools this week. Burnett Elementary School will be called Bobbie Smith Elementary School, while Hill Classical Middle School will become Eunice Sato Academy of Math and Science.
The name change for Burnett will go into effect later this fall. Hill will keep its name while the middle school is phased out to make room for the Sato Academy, a high school that will accept its first freshman class next school year.
Smith was the the first African American member on LBUSD’s school board, where she served from 1988 to 2004. She completed four terms as president on the school board during major reforms that earned national recognition, including the implementation of school uniforms and standards-based instruction, and she worked for more than 20 years as a librarian at Long Beach City College. Smith is a life member and Golden Heritage member of the Long Beach Branch NAACP, life member and past president of the National Council of Negro Women in Long Beach, and the recipient of numerous honors and awards from national and local organizations.
Hill will be renamed after former Long Beach Mayor Eunice Sato, who was the city’s first female mayor. Sato also served as president of the California Conference for Equality and Justice, and she was involved in the Parent Teacher Association and various community organizations.
While Sato was attending San Jose City College during World War II, the government began interning Japanese Americans in camps. Instead of being removed to a camp, Sato fled with her mother and siblings to the mountains of Colorado, where their relatives lived.
She later earned a teaching degree and a master’s degree from Colombia University, and she spent three years in Japan as a missionary teaching English.