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  • Writer's pictureESSEX FREE PRESS

GECDSB sticks to “Erie Migration Academy” as future K-12 Kingsville school name

by Sylene Argent, Local Journalism Initiative

The new Kingsville K-12 school on Jasperson Road will be named “Erie Migration Academy,” as the Greater Essex County District School Board (GECDSB) doubled down on its previous decision, despite public discontent.

  Student Trustee Colin Pyne, at the beginning of the March 19 meeting, requested a motion to rescind the name selected at the previous meeting be put on the floor.

  Trustee Nancy Armstrong moved that motion, as Pyne could not as a Student Trustee. Trustee Linda Qin seconded.

  The motion, within a minute of being presented, failed.

  That did not stop conversation and delegates at the meeting from speaking to the matter.

  During the GECDSB meeting on Tuesday, February 20, a majority vote named the school, expected to open this fall, as “Erie Migration Academy.”

  This was done on advice from Trustee Julia Burgess, who represents Essex and Kingsville on the Board. As the local rep, she chaired the naming committee, which was comprised of student reps from KDHS and the elementary schools that will form the new school, in addition to community members and the GECDSB.

  The naming committee had two meetings, where members worked at dwindling down the 600 name submissions from the community to a short list of six, then down to two, Kingsville District Academy” and “Greater Kingsville Academy.”

  Burgess instead presented “Erie Migration Academy.”

  The controversial decision that veered from what students expected earned quite a bit of public backlash, including a walkout Kingsville District High School students organized.

  Current grade 11 Kingsville District High School students Emmerson Jadischke and Kinsey Kendrick were two of the students at the walk-out speaking out against the decision. They approached the GECDSB at its meeting last Tuesday evening.

  “Since the name for the K-12 school has been submitted, our community has joined to show our disappointment with the process not being followed and our mortification of the name ‘Erie Migration Academy,’” Jadischke said. “On behalf of the KDHS community, we thank the Trustees [who] have taken the time to respond to the citizens.”

  That included Trustees Cathy Cooke, Pyne, Armstrong, and Qin.

  Realizing it can be difficult to make decisions, Jadischke asked members of the GECDSB if they could go back and vote on the matter again, would they make a different choice now, “knowing this name was not supported by the community or the naming committee and has invoked an emotional response and disapproval from much of our community?”

  Though School Board legislation gave Burgess the right to produce a name on her own, “Is it ethical and fuelled with integrity for her to do this and for you to vote in favour?” Jadischke asked. “Afterall, the Code of Conduct for values states you stand for open, honest, and transparent communication to build trust and has been lost within our community and we have not seen our local Trustee be accountable to the people who have voiced concerns.”

  Kendrick, who was a member of the naming committee, spoke on how the naming committee fell short. “We failed at putting forth two names the Board felt worthy of consideration at the last Board meeting. However, we failed, because the School Board representatives did not provide clear guidelines and accurate information for the committee to work within.”

  During last month’s GECDSB meeting, Burgess said, “This was a controversial committee, as it involved not just a replacement for one school, but closures of others.”

  Kendrick said this was not her experience. “We witnessed caring staff, students, and community members working together respectfully to come up with a mutual solution.”

  The two names presented were selected by the naming committee through “calm and rational discussion, not through fireworks and arguments,” Kendrick said.

  In speaking to the name selected, Kendrick noted the word “Erie” would not be unique to the school, because of the relation to the Erie North Shore Minor Hockey.

  She said that point was discussed in the naming committee meetings. So was the desire not to use the word “Academy.”

  Jadischke added the GECDSB should recognize that in Kingsville and Harrow, the schools are the heart of their community.

  “Although ‘Kingsville’ may not be meaningful to the Trustees, it is meaningful to us and to the very community where it is located,” she said.

  She asked the Board to reconsider the name for the school similar to the naming committee’s third place selection, which would be recrafted as “Kingsville Lakeside District School,” or for the naming committee to be sent back for a final meeting with a new Chairperson.

  “Our school is not even open yet, and already the negative association with our current name has been broadcasted. We have a window of opportunity to create positive change, or at least you do,” Jadischke said, calling for action.

  The girls received a long applause after their delegation.

  When trying to get clarification on the use of the word “Academy” Student Trustee Pyne was interrupted by Board Chairperson Gale Hatfield, noting Trustees do not engage in dialogue or debate with delegations, but could only ask for clarification.

  Pyne had to formulate his question a couple times, with Hatfield contesting the merits of his question. She also responded that “Academy” was part of the top two names submitted by the naming committee.

  At the previous meeting Burgess said the word “Academy” was “pretty contentious” and “mildly disliked,” but she said it was chosen in the short list.

  Kendrick responded at first, they were told only “academy” could be used, but then was told at the last minute they could use “district school.”

  Burgess asked Kendrick if she received a policy and regulation with the application to join the committee. Kendrick noted she did not and heard from many on the committee they also did not receive a policy, but did receive background information on Kingsville and the form with the list of 600 name suggestions from the community.

  Burgess asked if she saw the hardcopies of the policy and regulations that were available at the meeting. Kendrick responded she did not.

  When moving onto the next speaker, Hatfield announced the GECDSB will not tolerate any comments that disparage any Trustee or staff member. “You will be asked to stop speaking,” she said.

  Angelina Ward, a 2021 graduate of KDHS, also addressed the GECDSB. She started an online petition to encourage the Board to reconsider the school’s name. Over 2000 individuals have signed it and over $1000 had been donated to keep it circulating, she said.

  She handed in the petition and voiced concerns with what she believed was a lack of communication with Caldwell First Nation.

  To her understanding, she said “Erie” is not an existing word in the Caldwell language.

  Given that information, Trustee Cooke put forward a motion to rescind the name, for the committee to meet again with a new Chairperson.

  “This is a disgrace that Erie was not checked out,” Cooke said.

  Hatfield said the motion had already been defeated earlier in the meeting, and it was out of order.

  Kingsville Deputy Mayor Kim DeYong appeared as a delegate as an alumna of two Kingsville schools and as a parent of two current students.

  She gave a brief history of James Kings, after whom the town was named in 1852. He was an immigrant from England. He found his way to the area with his family in 1835, employed as a teacher, earning the title Colonel after the Battle of Pelee Island during the Upper Canada Rebellion of 1838.

  He was Kingsville’s first schoolmaster and superintendent of schools for Gosfield Township.

  The Amherstburg Freedom Museum, she said, has a book, “The Refugee: Narratives of Fugitive Slaves in Canada,” published in 1856, four-years after Kingsville got its name.

  There is a quote from King in the book, where he describes the Black residents of Gosfield as “Good, honest, and moral.”

  “James King was known as a friend to people who were escaping slavery. In his duties as a conveyancer of deeds, he drafted legal documents, transferring land to people escaping the United States and who were settling here in Gosfield, DeYong relayed.

  Of the 600 school name submissions from the community, only six mentioned the words Erie and Migration. The word Kingsville was mentioned in over 50 percent. James King was even suggested, she noted.

  People would also prefer the word “school” over the ill-fitting word “academy,” DeYong said.

  “The data from your survey shows the probability of someone preferring ‘Erie Migration Academy’ is one in 87,000, whereas the probability of someone preferring ‘Kingsville District School is one in 13,” DeYong said. “This can easily be seen in the community backlash with a name, with an acronym that will humiliate our children.

  “Harrow maintains a school with their community name… and despite the controversial history of General Amherst, Amherstburg still has a school with their community name,” DeYong said. “In fact, it seems every smaller community has a public school that bears its name, and Kingsville is worthy of that, too.

  “Kingsville is where the new school is located, and it is a name we can be proud of. Indeed, using the name ‘Kingsville’ for our new school is appropriate and it is in good taste.”

  A KDHS student and Harrow resident also showed concern for the lack of representation of Harrow residents in the focus group.

  “As a Harrow resident at KDHS, I can confirm the desire of many of us to include ‘Kingsville’ in the new name of the school. It is unclear to me and to several other students, why it is problematic given the majority of students going to the new school will come form schools in Kingsville."

  She also pointed out the source of ridicule with the “Name's acronym, noting it is one her age group uses that will lead to social mockery and embarrassment.

  She spoke of how does not believe there is a whole lot wrong with the naming policy. School naming, she said, has been a hot topic for at least five-years. Even though the policy has been reviewed, she believes the GECDSB still does not have it right.

  “I think it is very open to folks being not as open-minded as a creative process for a concept and idea,” Burgess said. She hopes to have support in sending the school name policy back for review.

  Trustee Ron LeClair noted that this would be the fifth review of the policy in ten-years.

Pyne asked the vote be recorded in the minutes, and noted he would only support the motion if the mover – Burgess – would recuse herself from it, as he believed as Chairperson, the reason this is going back, is because it seems self-serving.

  Hatfield noted Pyne’s comments were out of order and “offensive.” He was asked to withdraw them or leave the meeting, which he did apologize for, because he said he was only trying to explain his position.

  In a vote of five in support to four opposed, Burgess’s motion passed.

  Armstrong tried to put forward a Notice of Motion for the next meeting to ask the Board of Trustees to rescind the motion that the GECDSB name the new school in Kingsville “Erie Migration Academy” and replace the name with one suggested by the committee report that has a thoroughly vetted acronym.

  Hatfield ruled that out of order, as she tried to make that a motion earlier in the meeting.

  Later in the meeting, Qin put forward a Notice of Motion to examine the naming procedure of “Erie Migration Academy.” Hatfield was not sure that was in order. She said she would review it and advise.


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