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Relations Chill Between Once Friendly Neighbors

By Teresa Rochester

April 23 -- The Doubletree Guest Suites Hotel has rolled up its welcome mat, telling Samohi officials to take their events elsewhere in the wake of a recent controversial student march on the hotel, which sits on school district property and is embroiled in a unionizing battle, The Lookout has learned.

Samohi officials estimate that between five and 10 Samohi events take place each year at the hotel, which abuts the high school. The events range from behind-the-scenes tours for hospitality students to principal receptions.

The first cancellation came on the Monday following the April 11 march, when hotel management told officials in the school's Regional Occupation Program (ROP) to find a new venue for their annual awards dinner honoring students enrolled in an entrepreneurial program called Project E.C.H.O., according to school officials

"It came as a surprise," said Rebel Harrison, the school's ROP coordinator. "It may be, in reflecting, that it shouldn't have come as a surprise, but I was…We have a pretty positive relationship with the hotel. The hotel has obviously reached its own conclusions regarding some of the actions."

Hotel management declined to comment. But a hotel employee, who wished to remain anonymous, said it would be hypocritical for the hotel to allow Samohi events to take place in light of the student march, which was organized by the local Hotel Employee and Restaurant Employee union.

The school, the employee said, would still be welcome at the hotel if the march had been organized and staged by students. However, the union's active role in the demonstration -- which was part of a series of events at Samohi to commemorate Cesar Chavez day -- no longer made it a student event.

"After what they pulled and the entire school was behind it, I thought it was a bit hypocritical for us to invite them in," the employee said. "Even the people working here who would be serving them weren't happy with what they did."

The hotel employee said that plans for the E.C.H.O. banquet -- the group's first turn at the DoubleTree -- were still tentative when the hotel pulled out. But ROP instructor Anita Kemp said everything, including a menu, was set.

"We were all set," said Kemp, who has collaborated with the hotel on school projects for years. "Did we have anything in writing? No, but it was… agreed upon that the Project E.C.H.O. Awards Dinner [would take place].

"We've had relationships for years and years and years," said Kemp. "Because the students take their right to protest, why are we being punished?"

The Project E.C.H.O. event, where some students are also honored with scholarships, will now take place at the Marina Marriott Courtyard Hotel on June 5.  
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