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Leardi calls out GECDSB for naming of new school

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The MPP for Essex County is adding his name to the list of people calling out the Greater Essex County District School Board for the naming of the new school in Kingsville.

The new kindergarten to Grade 12 school will be Erie Migration Academy.

After students from the past, present, and future flocked outside Kingsville District High School Friday afternoon to protest the name, Anthony Leardi is also now saying the chosen name “means nothing to no one,” and “The proposed name fails on at least four of the five naming criteria… and is not consistent with the board’s naming criteria.”

NAMING CRITERIA

Must be distinctive and appropriate with an emphasis on, but not limited to:

  • Local historical events
  • Geography
  • Culture
  • Traditions of the community
  • Representations of diversity

The new school, off Jasperson Lane, south of the Kingsville Arena, will bring together students from Jack Miner Public School, Kingsville and Harrow Public Schools, along with Kingsville District High School.

A petition has been launched to “rescind the name" and another petition asks to "keep Kingsville in the new school's name." 

BURGESS CALLS FOR RETRACTION

Julia Burgess, the trustee for the towns of Essex and Kingsville, has called for Leardi to retract his letter to the board for his “hurtful commentary” and “misguided conclusion.”

Burgess made the call in a letter of her own in response to Leardi in which she writes, “You need to retract that as diplomatically as you can.”

She stresses the backlash to the new school name has led to threats and concerns for her safety, which have been reported to police.

“This dissent … has been so ill informed, so exaggerated, and brought safety and security issues to those who publicly support the name, and to me and my family personally,” wrote Burgess. “You may be aiding in this misinformation by stating, incorrectly, that the name didn’t meet the naming criteria.”

Burgess says she has made Ontario Provincial Police aware of the threats and, further to that, plans for more disruption and escalation.

In her letter, Burgess details the public process undertaken to find a new name for the new school, the responsibility that falls on the board, and how ‘Erie Migration Academy’ meets the naming criteria set out at the beginning of the search.

Burgess says that criteria includes “an encouragement for a concept or idea gleaned from the [naming] committee’s lists” — that falls at the discretion of trustees.

The trustee, who served as chair of the naming committee, argues Leardi’s letter allows for a “false narrative of impropriety” and serves as a catalyst for misinformation to spread.

Burgess pointed to the new name as encompassing the area’s history and traditions as part of a broader pledged to adhere to the Truth and Reconciliation Commission’s calls to action — specifically for how it recognizes Indigenous connotations and affiliations.

“I must admit that I take considerable offence that you have stated that the name means ‘nothing to no one,’” wrote Burgess. “How very disrespectful.”

Furthermore, Burgess says social media has generated “unearned suspicion” and “dampened” the debut of the name. She also argues supporters of the name “are not as vocal” and those who oppose “are jumping to uniformed conclusions.”

She closes by imploring Leardi to embrace a “positive step forward” and to model the “resiliency” students have shown during the pandemic.

“Many adults in our area are not rising to that challenge,” she writes.

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