Wednesday, March 6, 2013

When it's not really about a name

I recently received a telephone call from Vancouver Courier news reporter Cheryl Rossi asking me about the naming of the new VSB school.  You will, I trust, be able to read her article sometime in the next few days. [You can find her story here.  I appreciate the sensitive and balanced approach she took to this issue]

I felt saddened by the line of questions because it was focused upon the process and the nature of my role in the process.  I would have rather spoken about the wonderful women that was Rose Point.  At first I tried to say nothing and asked to end the conversation.  The reporter was good at her job and kept going.  I hope that my responses honour the principles of respect that I try to follow.  I really don't want to engage in a back and forth who said what, who did what.  That, to me, will diminish the possibility of this very potentially historic opportunity of naming a school.

After thinking about the issue I called the reporter back to try and explain why I think debating the process misses the point of this issue.  But I don't think I was effective.  I'm not interested in trying to respond point by point to things the reporter is attributing to the Acadia School PAC Chair.  

Here's the gist of what I wanted to say.
First, I really work hard to avoid personal attacks or criticisms of individuals. I don't always succeed, but I do try. It seems counter productive to me.  I work professionally in an area of study where I am witness to much harm and dysfunction and thus I find it very important to try and avoid personal attacks.
Second, I have clear and well defined perspectives on many issues.  I am also quick to apologize without condition when I make a mistake. 
Third I believe it to be my civil duty to be involved in my community.  As a parent from about 1998-2009 I was involved in school PAC’s Jules Quesnel, Queen Elizabeth, Kitsilano, Churchill, and U Hill Secondary.  I also was a DPAC exec for about 6 years (from about 2003-2009).  I was involved in getting the University Neighbourhoods Association to set up a school action committee and worked with a range of local folks to lobby and advocate for our children in this area.  In all of these things what you see is what you get – an involved, hardworking person, who cares.  As a parent advocate I saw my role as advancing the well-being of all children, not just my own children, through my involvement.  I was involved with the S.O.S. Movement in 2001-2002 (and beyond) to work to ensure that all children could get a good education. 
Fourth I advocate and try to follow a radical democratic practice of openness.  You can see my longstanding campaign for real local government in the UBC area as published on my blog and that concern is what propelled me to run for elected office here for the UNA last fall.

In terms of the specific issue here I have tried to be clear to the people that I know, work with, and speak with (these folks don’t normally include journalists) where I stand and what I think.  Some family and friends might suggest I am too free with my perspective.  

I don’t believe that I am the first person who thought that Rose Point would be an appropriate choice for a school name.  I do know that I was the first to go and visit with the family to ask for their permission to suggest to people that Rose’s name be placed on a VSB School.  

I spoke with the Point family at Musqueam in the last week of November to ask for their blessing.  On November 23rd I posted a notice of the school naming process (one this blog) and expressed my hope 
“that we will be able to suggest to the School Board a name (or names) that honour the people upon whose lands our new school is being built and all the people who have worked to make education possible and meaningful throughout our great province!” 
And then, after having spoken with the family, posted a note about the issue where I stated publicly 
“It would would be a powerful act of respect to place Rose Point's name upon the new K-8 school being built at UBC.”

I track the visits to my blog and note that there was a lot of increased traffic during this period of time and that it would appear that many people were reading and forwarding links to my blog around the internet. 

This is normally considered a good thing.


Patty said...

As a parent of two current children of the school in question, I am thrilled with the possibility that their new school will be named after this respected Musqueam elder. Not all of the parents are represented by the PAC and its president. Their consultation with parents was biased in that they only sought input and support from those who wanted to keep the name Acadia Elementary. I never felt comfortable expressing my views on the topic - although I did feel comfortable doing so through the process set up by the VSB. You are right to point out "it's not really about a name"... there is an undercurrent of deeper issues at play.
I am excited for the school and hope that Rose Point Elementary will become a reality... and that along with the new name, there will be increased awareness of the territory and history of this place: it is a special place and this special school will deserves a special name.

Patti Bacchus (copied from VanSun Report Cards by editor) said...

A few points – the school has not ever been named by the board. The “Acadia Road” placeholder name is that which appears on plans etc to identify the location of the site, relative to other VSB locations. It was never intended to be a permanent name. In hindsight I wish it had been used with an asterisk to prevent any confusion about its status as a placeholder name only to avoid the current situation.

The name submissions were suggestions/ideas and the process was never intended to be a “vote”, but rather to gather ideas for the naming committee’s consideration. The role of the committee — any many thanks to all who participated and generously shared their thoughts and time — was to make recommendations to the board. It is the board’s role to weigh all input and information that has been gathered regarding potential names and then make a decision.

The board heard clearly through the naming process (and no, it was not a “re-naming” process and the school has not ever been formally named) that while there are some outstanding reasons to honour Rose Point and many people support that name, there are also parents and apparently some students who prefer staying with the “Acadia” placeholder name and making it permanent.

The key to the process is that the nine trustees have a good understanding of the suggested names, why they may or may not be appropriate, who supports which name and why. Ms. Antweiler has been an articulate and passionate representative for her PAC and clearly an effective representative on the committee. I think she has made a strong case and I know that all trustees have heard the many point she made about the process, whether they agree or disagree with the case she has made.

That tells me the process is working. Having differing views is part of democracy. Being heard is key. However that doesn’t always mean that the outcome will please everyone.

The Board will make its decision in early April after being sure to have listened carefully and I know my colleagues and I will weigh all of those views before reaching a final decision that will finally give the school an official name.

Thanks to all who have participated in the process. It's going to be a beautiful new school.