School District 70 board of trustees adopted an administrative procedure that outlines steps needed to either name or rename a school.
“It’s not just in reference to the eventual renaming of A.W. Neill, it’s to do with any (school naming),” said SD70 trustee Rosemarie Buchanan. “We had to have a district-wide administrative procedure, so that’s what we got.”
The procedure, which was approved on June 13, states that generally, schools will not be named after individuals. Instead, criteria for naming schools should typically consider: the name of the street on which the school is located, the name of the area/community/region that the school is located, or a historical name that once applied to the area.
Earlier this year, controversy surrounded the idea of renaming A.W. Neill Elementary School, which is named after Alan Webster Neill, a member of the House of Commons for Comox-Alberni from 1925-1945. During this time, Neill was a vocal opponent of Japanese imigration to Canada, and was the Indian Agent for the West Coast of Vancouver Island from 1903-1913 and supported the residential school system in the Alberni-Clayoquot region.
Some members of the public, city councillors, First Nations and school trustees have shown support for a name change, citing Neill’s racism, while others have been vocal in keeping the historic name the same.
Although the adopted procedure states schools, generally, will not be named after individuals, trustees can consider naming a school after a distinguished individual deserving recognition.
“When we adopted the admin procedure, I did serve notice that at the first [school board] meeting in September that I was going to make a motion that we initiate the [A.W. Neill] name change following the process outlined in the admin procedure,” Buchanan said.
According to the policy, where there is a compelling reason for the board of trustees to consider renaming a school, the board will seek input from the staff, students and community before approving a school name change by a majority vote of the board.
The same criteria is in place for the naming of a new school.
Buchanan said although the policy has taken a long time to manifest, she is happy with the adopted procedure and hopeful that A.W. Neill’s name will eventually change.
“It’s sort of like the outcome of the provincial election, when it happens it will happen and that’s when I’ll celebrate,” she said.