Students stage walkout after GECDSB selects different name than selection committee suggested

Disappointed. Dismissed. Discouraged.

Those are a few of the described emotions current Kingsville District High School students are feeling after the Greater Essex County District School Board (GECDSB) selected a new name “Erie Migration Academy” for the soon-to-open Kingsville K-12 school on Jasperson Lane.

It was not on the short list the selection committee provided, which included students.

Around 100 students and supporters took part in a walk-out on Friday afternoon at Kingsville District High School (KDHS) to show their upset at the way the name was selected.

During the GECDSB meeting on Tuesday, February 20, Trustee Julia Burgess explained she got to Chair the naming committee as the area’s rep. She said it was an honour and a privilege to work in that role.

She thanked those on the committee for the efforts.

“It was a lot of work,” she said.

In the call for submissions in the fall, over 600 names were submitted.

“That shows a tremendous interest,” she said.

“This was a controversial committee,” she told fellow Board Members, as it was very apparent, because it involved not just a replacement for one school, but closures of others.

In addressing the GECDSB on the name, and the final two submitted from the naming committee – “Kingsville District Academy” and “Greater Kingsville Academy” – she pointed to School Board regulations that noted Trustees will choose from the short list of suggested names for a school, or provide an alternative.

“It has been heart-wrenching and very difficult for me. I’ve had emails, messages, all kinds of phone calls, all kinds of deliberations. It’s a hot topic in town,” she said, noting that includes the future school’s feeder areas, like Harrow and Colchester in Essex.

As a result, she put forward an alternate name. She said then only one other person in that room knew the name she selected before revealing “Erie Migration Academy.”

“I took it from really looking at the 600 submissions and the discussions at the committee,” she said.

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

She chose the word “Migration” because of the school’s position in spring and fall migrations, and the “Erie” because it is known it is referring to the lake and is an Indigenous word.

She also spoke of how the school’s catchment would extend beyond Kingsville.

Trustee Sarah Cipkar commended Burgess on her choice, calling it a fitting, knowing the new school’s catchment goes beyond Kingsville.

Trustee Connie Buckler said she liked the name, but asked Burgess if there would be backlash over the new name. Burgess said she believed it would be highly contentious.

Burgess said it was not her intention to waste anyone’s time on the naming committee by selecting a different name. “It did come from the committee, just not those three words together all the time,” she said.

Trustee Nancy Armstrong said she was uncomfortable with the suggestion with “Kingsville” heavily suggested in the top suggestions. She asked why this name was brought up at the last minute.

According to the Report to the GECDSB on the matter, four of the five top choices for the school name included “Kingsville.”

Burgess noted the suggestion “Kingsville Lakeside Academy” in that top five list was originally “Kingsville Migration Academy.” When amendments were allowed, it was changed and “migration” was kicked-off.

Trustee Linda Qin suggested bringing the name back to the committee to respect the community before making a decision.

Burgess said she did not want to delay the decision, so branding could be started.

Armstrong and Qin did not support the name change. The other six supported.

Current Kingsville District High School students Emmerson Jadischke and Kinsey Kendrick were two of the students at the walk-out speaking out against the decision.

Kendrick was on the naming committee. She explained there were two meetings where they went from 600 suggested names from the committee down to the two. She said there were student reps from KDHS and the elementary schools that will form the new school on the naming committee, in addition to community members and the GECDSB.

They explained it wasn’t necessarily the name they disliked, it was the way it was selected.

She said the students on the naming committee were given a leadership opportunity, but felt their work was discarded.

Seeing the people turn up at the walk-out shows how strong of a community Kingsville is, Jadischke added.

They would like to speak at the next GECDSB meeting to talk about what happened.

Kingsville Mayor Dennis Rogers noted the Town will always support young people in standing up for what they believe in. He noted the demonstration last week was done respectively.

Essex MPP Anthony Leardi wrote a letter to the GECDSB noting, “The Board seems to have chosen a name which means nothing to no one.”

He believes the proposed name fails on at least four of the five naming criteria.

“At the same time, the Board seems to be sending the message that somehow the name ‘Kingsville’ is inappropriate. Yet, no one has enunciated why.“

The Board has made a misstep with the proposed name. There is nothing wrong with re-considering this decision, especially since this decision has met with so much public disfavour. Regardless of whatever the final name will be, we want our schools to be supported by the citizens of the community,” he wrote.

The Board should simply re-consider the choice and follow the process again, he urged.

Since, a petition on change.org has been launched. At print time, it has over 2000 signatures. It was started by former KDHS student Angeline Ward, who spoke of how her great-grandfather ran away from a residential school and settled in the area and how four generations of her family went to school there. She felt the naming process did not represent the culture of value and honesty.

She hopes the petition will be presented to the School Board. She started the petition because she wanted to develop a way to turn the frustration she heard from the community into a way to enact change.

Sylene Argent, Local Journalism Initiative Reporter, Essex Free Press