Pub­lic school board balks at forced name change

Calgary Herald - - FRONT PAGE - EVA FER­GU­SON

In de­fi­ance of a min­is­te­rial or­der to change their in­sti­tu­tion’s le­gal name, pub­lic school of­fi­cials are ask­ing to in­stead main­tain the Cal­gary Board of Ed­u­ca­tion’s long-held and fa­mil­iar moniker. But the prov­ince has al­ready hit back, say­ing it will re­ject the re­quest be­cause it goes against a provincewi­de ini­tia­tive to stan­dard­ize school dis­tricts across Al­berta. Over the sum­mer, lo­cal su­per­in­ten­dents re­ceived an of­fi­cial let­ter from the Deputy Min­is­ter of Ed­u­ca­tion, ex­plain­ing that as a re­sult of the Ed­u­ca­tion Act, all school boards and dis­tricts must of­fi­cially be­come school di­vi­sions.

“This change al­lows all en­ti­ties to have con­sis­tent, max­i­mum flex­i­bil­ity to de­ter­mine their elec­toral

bound­aries and rep­re­sen­ta­tion,” said deputy min­is­ter Cur­tis Clarke.

“Be­fore this con­sis­tency was in­tro­duced, dif­fer­ent ju­ris­dic­tions had dif­fer­ent rights de­pend­ing on whether they were dis­tricts, di­vi­sions or re­gional di­vi­sions. As di­vi­sions, now all ju­ris­dic­tions can op­er­ate un­der a level play­ing field.”

But the rea­son­ing still has some ed­u­ca­tion lead­ers scratch­ing their heads, while oth­ers are con­cerned the change will take the word “pub­lic” out of many school dis­tricts across the prov­ince, cre­at­ing a sys­tem that won’t dif­fer­en­ti­ate be­tween pub­lic and pri­vate.

The CBE had its name changed to “Cal­gary School Divi­sion” as of Sept. 1, in com­pli­ance with the Ed­u­ca­tion Act.

But CBE ad­min­is­tra­tors raised con­cerns about the high cost of chang­ing their name on myr­iad le­gal doc­u­ments, in­clud­ing pur­chase or­der tem­plates, ven­dor con­tracts, land ti­tles and copyright reg­is­tra­tions.

As a re­sult, CBE trus­tees voted Tues­day to send a let­ter to Ed­u­ca­tion Min­is­ter Adri­ana La­grange ask­ing that they re­vert to their orig­i­nal, long-held name for the sake of saving time and money.

But Colin Aitchi­son, press sec­re­tary for the Of­fice of the Min­is­ter of Ed­u­ca­tion, said the pub­lic school board’s for­mer le­gal name was ac­tu­ally Cal­gary School Dis­trict No. 19, not CBE.

And more im­por­tantly, he added, they can con­tinue to main­tain Cal­gary Board of Ed­u­ca­tion as their brand, in let­ter­head, on their web­site and on school build­ings, mean­ing the cost of the change would be neg­li­gi­ble.

“The Board of Trus­tees of the Cal­gary School Divi­sion is clearly un­able to grasp how th­ese changes will af­fect them. If the divi­sion wants to fight to re­tain their old le­gal name, Cal­gary School Dis­trict No. 19, they should make that clear. Mov­ing for­ward, the Cal­gary School Divi­sion is welcome to con­tinue to brand them­selves as the Cal­gary Board of Ed­u­ca­tion.”

In re­sponse to whether the min­is­ter will ap­prove the CBE’S re­quest to main­tain their old le­gal name, Aitchi­son said: “No. The min­is­ter will not ap­prove their re­quest, as this would re­sult in school di­vi­sions not hav­ing stan­dard­ized names, which was the point of the change.”

While the of­fi­cial re­quest has not yet been sent, CBE chair Mar­i­lyn Den­nis said that if the min­is­ter re­jects it, staff will be forced to go ahead with time-con­sum­ing and ex­pen­sive work.

“The im­pacts would be sig­nif­i­cant if we weren’t able to re­vert back to Cal­gary Board of Ed­u­ca­tion,” Den­nis said.

“There are a num­ber of con­tracts, a num­ber of ven­dors that we work with, ti­tles on our build­ing and any land we own. We’d have to re­visit all of that to change the name.

“And this is about us­ing our re­sources the best we can. It would be sig­nif­i­cant if we were not able to be suc­cess­ful.”

Barb Silva, spokes­woman for the Sup­port Our Stu­dents ad­vo­cacy group, said the re­moval of the word “board” has huge im­pacts for the CBE be­cause it di­lutes the board’s value as a demo­crat­i­cally elected body.

“As a pub­lic ed­u­ca­tion ad­vo­cacy or­ga­ni­za­tion, we ex­pect our elected trus­tees to de­fend pub­lic ed­u­ca­tion at ev­ery op­por­tu­nity. This is, in fact, what they have been elected to do.

“More­over, at a time when pub­lic ed­u­ca­tion is in­creas­ingly un­der at­tack by Min­is­ter Adri­ana La­grange, we call on all trus­tees to take im­me­di­ate ac­tion on be­half of pub­lic ed­u­ca­tion.”

Silva sug­gested the CBE com­ply with the min­is­te­rial or­der but then doc­u­ment all as­so­ci­ated ad­min­is­tra­tive costs for im­ple­men­ta­tion and high­light that those funds could have been used in the class­room.

Silva also wants school dis­tricts to add the word pub­lic to all com­mu­ni­ca­tions in sol­i­dar­ity.

“The CBE should protest this min­is­te­rial or­der by ac­tively in­cor­po­rat­ing the word pub­lic in all other cor­re­spon­dence. The time is now to show our com­mit­ment to pub­lic ed­u­ca­tion, and we ex­pect our pub­lic school board trus­tees to lead in this en­deav­our.”

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