School name protest looks for support

Writer has questioned Board of Education twice, now he wants other members of the public to attend with him on Nov. 3.

Dear Editor

I am sitting here at 2AM the morning following my trip to Shalath and Seaton Portage to speak with the Board of Trustees SD74 further regarding their decision to rename the K-12 school in Ashcroft.

At the meeting in Lillooet on Sept.  8 I asked these questions:

Why was the naming so late in a process spanning 18 months and with no opportunity for the general public to respond prior to the submission of the name to the ministry?

Why was the name Ashcroft not included on the short list to be voted upon until a student at the school noted its absence from the names on the poll and protested? It was entered after the opinion poll had actually begun.

Why was the poll conducted via school websites and alleged drop boxes, thus eliminating a large portion of the population from the voting?

Why were the results of the poll completely ignored?

Why was there no notification of the name change process in the Ashcroft/Cache Creek Journal, the post office, the library or Safety Mart?

I was told that over 1,000 people had participated in the naming and if that be the case then why were there only 334 votes?

I also posed the question, why were the 648 persons who signed the petition asking the board to revisit their decision ignored?

On Oct. 6 I was seeking answers to these questions during the question and answer period following the board meeting. When asked for answers to the above questions they were either unable or unwilling to answer any of them. They stated that a committee of staff and students had selected the names for the shortlist and that they supported their decision.

The co-chairs speaking on behalf of the board stated that an individual at the June 2 meeting had made an impassioned plea that the new name reflect not just the community of Ashcroft, rather all of the communities attending school in Ashcroft and that after a lengthly discussion regarding the matter they  had selected the name Desert Sands School. They had then amended the name to Desert Sands Community School so as not to have two DSS’s in the district.

They reiterated their position that the process was democratically conducted and that it would be undemocratic to revisit it. A member of the board stated that they had considered the petition submitted asking them to revisit their decision. I found this interesting in as much as the petition was not submitted to the board until two weeks after the board had made the decision and probably submitted the name to the ministry.

My presentation at this month’s meeting centered around 1) thanking those trustees who had suggested that the matter needed further review prior to a vote; 2) the letter sent to one of the petitioners who was still questioning the renaming of the school, dismissing her by saying that her questions had been answered and that they would not be corresponding with her any further regarding the matter. Obviously the questions she was asking had not been satisfactorily answered or she would not still be questioning the process and have initiated the petition asking that the board revisit their decision; and 3) Were the First Nations people involved in the renaming process, and if they were, why were there no First Nation names included on the short list.

In closing I said: “Please understand that we will gladly abide by whatever name is chosen at such time as the public has had sufficient input in the process and has been given a well publicized opportunity to exercise their will regarding this matter.”

I was asked to speak on behalf of the petitioners and have done so at both meetings of the board this fall. We are still looking for satisfactory answers. I will continue seeking a satisfactory solution to this dilemma on your behalf and would deeply appreciate a show of your support by appearing with me.

I have asked to address the Trustees at the school in Ashcroft on Nov. 3 at 6:30 pm prior to the start of their regular meeting. Perhaps the board would recognize that we are an impassioned group if many of us showed up.

You do not need to be there for the entire meeting. Should anyone else wish to address the board they may do so by submitting a request to the board office prior to the finalization of the meeting’s agenda. The public may ask questions at the end of the meeting should they desire doing so.

Mike Baldwin