Trustees reject proposed new name for Sir John A. Macdonald Public School

Sir John A. Macdonald Public School in northeast London will retain its current name for a little while longer.

Thames Valley District School Board trustees rejected the top replacement name selected by parents in the school community at a meeting on Tuesday night.

The board’s name selection committee had recommended the Landor Street school be rebranded as Carling Heights Public School. That decision was based on the first choice naming preferences of respondents to a survey sent to members of the school community at the end of March.

Of the 210 parents who were eligible to cast a vote, only 78, or 37 per cent, responded. Carling Heights Public received 41 votes, Merwin Heights Public got 24 votes, and Landor Street Public 13 votes.

The recommended name was quickly shot down by trustees in a 5-4 decision. Two trustees abstained from voting on the name change motion.

It is unclear why some trustees rejected the preferred new name as there was no debate surrounding the issue. Only Trustee Beth Mai spoke about why she couldn’t support Carling Heights.

“I really value the voice of our community and them having agency in making decisions about the renaming of schools,” said Mai. “I would be completely remiss if I did not bring up a concern around this particular name choice, and whether or not community members had access to the information that we have access to now when they cast their votes.”

Mai provided no other context for her comment. However it was confirmed board members were provided a report that contained further background on the origin of the Carling Heights name. The report was compiled using information gathered by Thames Valley’s records and human rights departments. Information in that report was not provided to parents voting on the name change.

“My primary concern is that we do not find ourselves, a few years down the road, looking at re-naming a school once again and spending $40,000 of taxpayer money,” added Mai.

Carling Heights, which is the neighbourhood where the school is located, is named after Thomas Carling. He founded the Carling brewery in London in the 1800s and owned the land that is now the Carling Heights neighbourhood.

Had it received trustee backing, Carling Heights Public would have taken effect as the new name for Sir John A. Macdonald Public this September. It is unclear now when a new name will be selected.

John A. Macdonald Public was one of over a dozen schools within the Thames Valley board that has been flagged for renaming under a sweeping review of all building and facility names that began two years ago. Schools identified have names that don’t reflect the board’s commitment to promoting human rights, equity, and inclusive learning environments for all students. John A. Macdonald Public made the list due to its namesake having historical ties to racism and discrimination.

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