Thursday, April 6, 2023
NNDSB committed to an equitable process regarding renaming of Chippewa Secondary School
Near North District School Board (NNDSB) is committed to the well-being and achievement of students. All schools in Ontario – in accordance with the Ministry of Education – must make sure that schools are safe spaces where every student is provided with all the tools and supports, they need to reach their potential and staff members feel like a valued part of the school team.
For some students, school is neither welcoming nor inclusive. It is therefore incumbent on NNDSB to make changes that reflect our commitment to equity, safety and well-being.
The board understands that there is sentiment attached to the name of Chippewa Secondary School, which has been part of North Bay for decades and has graduated thousands of students. But not all former and current students feel the same sense of pride. For many, the name of the school, its mascot and affiliated activities represent an appropriation of culture. The name has been used to perpetuate racist activities that affect student well-being.
Throughout the North Bay secondary schools consolidation process, NNDSB has always been transparent and forthright in the direction it was going. In 2017 the Board of Trustees approved the consolidation and outlined the process, including the renaming of Chippewa. The timing of the renaming process is not the result of a new decision of the trustees elected in the fall of 2022, but the methodical advancement of a decision made by the Board in 2017. It is the role of trustees to uphold and carry on with the governance decisions of former Boards.
NNDSB is mindful of the responsibility to choose a name that is respectful of all stakeholders and rightsholders. NNDSB has noticed the public is in favour of further consultation. The Chippewa renaming committee is an ad hoc committee that represents various stakeholders and rightsholders. Committee membership consists of two NNDSB trustees, a superintendent of education, the principal of Chippewa, three Chippewa teachers, two representatives of Nipissing First Nation, the school’s advisory council chair, a student, the NNDSB Indigenous lead, a community member, and two additional staff members.
The Board Chair, Erika Lougheed, was elected by the trustees to represent them, and as such is the spokesperson for the Board of Trustees to communicate Board decisions.
At its December 2022 meeting, a detailed report which outlined the rationale for the name change was presented to the Board. Included in the rationale is a desire to create a new identity that will create a psychologically safe and inclusive environment for all students and staff including the staff and students that came from the former Widdifield Secondary School. The name change is also NNDSB’s acknowledgment that the Chippewa name was and is painful for some former and current students and staff.
The Chippewa name change is indicative of the board’s resolve to move forward with First Nations and Indigenous partners in Truth and Reconciliation.
School boards have a role to play in education regarding the Truth and Reconciliation Calls to Action. Number 63 specifically notes that in education, student capacity needs to be built for intercultural understanding, empathy, and mutual respect. To that end, NNDSB is presently engaged in a comprehensive process of Indigenous Education; ultimately to improve well-being and achievement for all students.