How to Rename Your Public School
At the very end of the 2021/22 school year the Vancouver School Board (VSB) launched a new Administrative Policy (AP) that set up a framework to rename schools (and other buildings owned by the board).
Never before has it been possible to change the name of an existing school. There are a lot of articles aout why this is a problem. Here’s one from CBC and here’s one I wrote. So far the policy has been piloted to re-name two schools in Vancouver.
Our school is the first, post pilot, to go through the new codified process. For context, our school is named after a guy who ran concentration camps in Africa and decimated indigenous populations in India and Afghanistan. While he never came to Canada this made him enough of a hero of the English Empire to name our school after a bit over a hundred years ago. For what it’s worth Lord Kitchener was the one he sent to do most of the implimentation.
This article is intended to help the many school communities who might want a different name for their school. I’m assuming that this is most useful for Parent Advisory Committees (PACs) so is written for that audience, but it applies to any eligible group who wants to change the name of their school (including high school students), or other parties who want to understand what is up.
How AP 541 (Renaming) Actually Works : Step By Step
Engage & Submit
- Engage you school community
Parent, staff, admin, and at high school students need to be aligned about the need/desire for a name change. There is no need to provide a petition or anything like that, but there should be (at minimum) a vote and discussion at a general PAC meeting.
- Submit the request
The request is a letter signed by the PAC chair and the principal. The principal submits it to VSB (Secretary-Treasurer). Here is a copy of our letter. We submitted June, 2022.
Recommendation to VSB Facilities & Board of Trustees
- VSB forms an ad hoc working group to fill out a form about the name (AP 541 appendix B)
We are in this stage now (Nov 2022). The group consists of: The School Principal who shall serve as representative and liaison to the school community; the District Principal, Educational Planning; someone from each of VTF (Vancouver Teachers Association), Canadian Union of Public Employees (CUPE), District Parent Advisory Committee (DPAC), and Vancouver District Student Council (VDSC) who represent their organizations and liaise with them as necessary. The questions on the form are mostly about the “name’s” history and are listed below.
- The form is presented to the VSB Facilities Committee
The committee reviews the form and makes a recommendation to the trustees (board).
- The Trustees decide if the name should be changed
The board takes in the facilities recommendation then votes.
- IF the trustees say NO- that is the end of the process
- IF the trustees say YES — the Finding a New Name part of the process begins
Finding a New Name
We haven’t gotten this far yet (Nov 2022).
- VSB Forms A Renaming Committee
This group will lead the process and consists of: the District Administrator Educational Planning (John Dawson); the Director of Instruction Educational Services (Committee Chair); the school principal, a PAC representative from the school; a teacher from the school (Vancouver Teachers Association); an Engineer from the school (CUPE representative); a community rep (no idea yet who and how this is chosen), and for high schools a student rep.
- The Committee Researches a New Name for the Site
Place-based names are the priority and should have a close/deep relationship to the school and land. “Generally, schools will not be named after individuals.” The committee will also consult with the Indigenous Education Department to find out if there is an interest in an Indigenous place-based name, or a dual English and Indigenous name². The Indigenous Education Department will then seek guidance from the appropriate local Nation(s).
- Committee Develops a Plan and a Timeline
The committee is responsible for figuring out how the school community will be involved in the process. It can’t happen in a black box and needs to be inclusive.
- A New Name is Presented to the Board
Through the community engagement (including the indigenous community) a new name(s) will be selected to present to the board. The Renaming committee will then present that new name(s) to the trustees.
- A Final Decision is Made by the Board of Trustees
It is worth noting that the admin procedure says the trustees can ignore all the recommendations if they want to.
- An Official Ceremony is Held to Rename the School
- Education Plan — The Name Lives on
“An education and communication plan will be developed and implemented to support understanding the history and significance of a new school name and to teach the proper pronunciation of the name given, when appropriate.”
If you have any questions please email me at email@example.com or firstname.lastname@example.org or on twitter.
In the days to come I will write a separate more detailed article that includes rants and complains and realities. I’ll add the link here.
Thank you for reading! If this helped you may be interested in reading this article about having a tough conversation.
If you have a comment, feedback, or idea add it below, shoot me an email, or send me a tweet.