Why I am continuing the fight

A reader writes to explain why he continues to protest the renaming of Ashcroft's K to 12 school.

Dear Editor,

As students prepare to return to school I must prepare to resume the battle over a name.

I have repeatedly asked myself the question “Why am I fighting a battle over the renaming of the school in our village?” My quest for an answer has led to the following conclusion: the name is a small part of a much larger issue.

The issue at hand goes far deeper than a name. It reaches to the very fabric upon which our nation was founded, a form of government where a few people are elected to represent the will of the many: a democracy.

I first must confess that I was born and raised in the U.S.A. I served in the United States Army during the war in Vietnam, fulfilling an obligation to my country. This was not of my own choosing, as I was drafted. We in Canada and the United States enjoy freedoms that a large portion of the world may only dream of. The cost of those freedoms was very high; something not appreciated by many who simply take them for granted. Friends, family, classmates, and students of mine have served, suffered, and even died in wars fought to preserve those freedoms.

Upon completion of my obligation I continued my pursuit of a degree in education and a career as a teacher. I was destined to leave my home in the United States and move to Canada to pursue my dreams of teaching and coaching young men and women, who would in turn follow their own dreams.

When the few elected to represent the many ignore the will of those who elected them, the very fabric of those freedoms is placed in jeopardy. They must be reminded of the privilege they have been accorded, and the responsibility that accompanies this privilege.

We often hear of the silent majority and say that their wishes will be heard. I am not writing today of them; rather of the people who spoke three times voicing their will. They did this in the poll conducted by the board of trustees, which for whatever reason excluded the very name associated with the district or school for more than 125 years. It was (by the way) a student who noted the oversight and asked for its inclusion, four days into a 10 day poll; the name received more than twice the support of the second name (136 votes to 57).

Two petitions—one by the general public, the other by the very students who attend the school in question—simply asking the trustees to revisit their hasty decision were also ignored. I use the word “hasty” due to the fact that the whole process from the beginning of the poll to the submission to the ministry of the new name took two weeks (May 22–June 4, 2015). These were the final two weeks of a transition lasting approximately two years.

The democracy the board of trustees spoke of in their letter replying to the petitioners included only the seven elected trustees. The members of the board conveniently left out the 3,000+ whom they were elected to represent, over 650 of whom voiced their opposition to the decision within three weeks of their discovery that the school had been renamed. No public notice was given prior to the poll. This would be equivalent to holding an election without informing the public that it was taking place, and then choosing the second place finisher.

I cannot stand idly by watching the abuse of the privilege granted by the electorate to the few, without voicing loud and long my protest. The price paid by the many who have sacrificed so much to obtain the freedoms we hold dear is too great. Whatever the name of the school in question, let it truly reflect the will of the people whom it serves. Were that the case, the board of trustees would not have had to write an additional policy (9.80) giving them sole authority regarding the naming of district facilities: the public would have been well served.

I continue to believe in the form of government we in Canada enjoy. It may not be perfect, but it does ensure that the voice of the people will be heard and their collective will, will be followed.

The dictionary defines trustee as “one to whom something is entrusted”.

We the people have entrusted the board of trustees with the governance of our district. When they fail listen to the voice of those who elected them, they violate that trust and perhaps require a reminder of who serves whom. They are, after all, only public servants, and not masters.

Mike Baldwin

Ashcroft