Red Deer Public School board to defend its ‘legal’ name

Red Deer Public School board to defend its ‘legal’ name

The Red Deer Public Schools Board of Trustees have voted to continue their advocacy efforts in maintaining the word ‘public’ in the District’s legal name.

Board chair Nicole Buchanan says three motions were approved on Sept. 11 detailing those efforts.

Trustees authorized the chair and vice chair to take appropriate action to defend the legal naming of the jurisdiction to maintain their public school identity, continue branding the district as Red Deer Public Schools, and refer the matter to the board’s Advocacy Committee for further discussions, strategies and recommendations.

“Eight boards within our province had to remove the word ‘public’ out of our legal name,” says Buchanan.

“It’s important for Red Deer Public to keep the word ‘public’ in our name because the word ‘public’ in our name is just as important to us as ‘Catholic’ is to separate schools. The word ‘public’ makes it clear that we are an inclusive system that welcomes each and every student.”

Despite The Continuance of the School Divisions and The Board of Trustees Order under the Education Act issued by Education Minister Adriana LaGrange on Aug. 15, Buchanan says their board will continue to operate as Red Deer Public Schools.

“We are also working with PSBAA (Public School Board’s Association of Alberta) and ASBA (Alberta School Boards Association) with regards to this,” adds Buchanan.

“Legally it had to be changed prior to September 30 for funding because they had changed the naming on their end. So if the names didn’t add up for banking, their funding wouldn’t come through, so legally, our name had to be changed for us to receive funding.”

Red Deer Public School board to defend its ‘legal’ name 1Nicole Buchanan

Although the District is able to continue branding itself as Red Deer Public Schools, Buchanan says she remains concerned about what the change could mean for public school education moving forward.

LaGrange issued a statement on Sept. 9 claiming the NDP and other special interest groups were fear mongering on public education. She said the government has acted to standardize school division names.

“There’s nothing preventing school divisions from branding themselves as they like in common usage,” the statement reads. “What’s more, the changes made only affect eight of 41 public school divisions. The vast majority of public school divisions never included ‘public’ in their title in the first place – yet they were very much public school divisions. This was the case under the NDP, just as it is now.”

LaGrange said that looking across Canada, it’s not uncommon for public school divisions to not include ‘public’.

“The Toronto District School Board, the nation’s largest school division, is indeed public but does not include the term ‘public’,” she added. “The omission of ‘public’ changes nothing. This is similar elsewhere in Canada.”

LaGrange says there were technical reasons why changes were made to standardize school division names, adding the previous system under the old School Act allowed for unequal treatment of school divisions.

“Previously there was a patchwork of different types of school divisions with different powers,” she explains. “With the Education Act, we are creating a level playing field. Before the new Education Act, regional divisions required ward and trustee representation from each of the initial entities that formed the regional division when regionalization occurred 25 years ago.”

LaGrange said to insinuate these changes are an attack on public education, is simply an attempt to cause unnecessary fear and stress in Alberta’s education system.

“I can assure all Albertans that our government fully supports the longstanding and successful tradition of pluralism in Alberta’s education system – including strong and viable public schools,” her statement concluded. “Despite the conspiracy theories of some with their own partisan motives, there is absolutely no ulterior motive with these common sense changes. Rest assured that our government will continue to protect public education in Alberta.”