The committee responsible for overseeing the transition of Stratford Central and Stratford Northwestern secondary schools to a grades 7 and 8 school and the city's only public high school respectively recommended two potential new names for both schools to the Avon Maitland board of trustees at a meeting Wednesday.
After spending more than a month soliciting new names for the public high schools formerly known as Stratford Northwestern and Stratford Central from stakeholders in the secondary and elementary school communities, the Stratford transformation committee has further narrowed that list down to just two names for each school.
The committee, comprising student, teacher, and parent representatives, as well as school board staff and trustees, met Wednesday evening to discuss the names that were put forward by the committee’s elementary teacher representatives for Stratford Central — which will transition to a grades 7 and 8 school following the completion of $6.9 million in renovations this September — and by the secondary teacher representatives for Stratford Northwestern — which will become the city’s lone public high school.
After surveying students, staff and parents in each of their respective school communities, the elementary teacher representatives brought back five of the most popular school names for consideration, while the secondary teachers put forward only three, which they selected from a much larger list based on a specific set of criteria and then ranked them separately among students, staff, and parents.
“No one told them how to do this,” Avon Maitland District School Board superintendent of education Jane Morris said. “This was grassroots. This was, ‘How do you want to brainstorm (names)?’”
At their meeting, the transformation committee adopted the same the set of five criteria the secondary teachers used to help the committee make its recommendation to the board of trustees:
- the name must indicate the school level;
- it must represent the geographic region;
- neither school can be named after an individual;
- the name must not be culturally inappropriate;
- and it can’t currently be in use in Huron-Perth.
After much discussion over how many names the committee should recommend to the board of trustees, whether the committee should launch a second public consultation before it makes its recommendation to the board, and if the schools’ legacy names — Stratford Northwestern and Stratford Central — should be included in that recommendation, the committee voted to put forward “Festival City Intermediate School” and “Stratford Intermediate School” for the grades 7 and 8 school (formerly Startford Central) and “Stratford Secondary School” and “Stratford District Secondary School” for the high school (formerly Stratford Northwestern).
“Based on the fact that both of our trustee (committee representatives) have received (many emails about keeping the schools’ names as they are), that’s going to be part of their discussion when they discuss what we have recommended,” transformation committee chair Mary-Jane Karkheck said. “So perhaps we don’t need to include that (in our recommendation). They’re receiving lots of input from their constituents.”
As for further public consultation, Julie Moore and Herb Klassen, the trustee representatives on the committee, said the board of trustees will determine at its Feb. 25 meeting whether further public consultation is warranted and how that might unfold prior to making a final decision.
“Senior staff will prepare a public consultation process for the trustees to consider using the short list of names that the (committee) approved this evening,” school board communications manager Chera Longston said in a follow-up email after Wednesday’s meeting.
Despite the potential for more public consultation, school board staff said they were optimistic that the process would adhere to the original timeline set out by the committee, and that both schools would have their new — or old — names by the end of March.