A school and a name: make the right choice

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The recent public engagement process initiated by the school councils of Bishops College and Booth Memorial was a great way to involve the community in choosing a name for the long-awaited new high school in the west end of St. John’s. Interested persons were invited to submit ideas for a name for the school.

Once the period for submissions ended, a committee made up of representatives from both high school councils decided on what name to present to the Newfoundland and Labrador English School District’s Board of Trustees for approval. Part of the process included one night of in-person submissions. As I understand it, there were 13 in total. People could also send submissions via email. Again, as I understand it, there were over 700 of these.

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All in all, I would call that type of response a huge success. Clearly there was a lot of interest in the community for naming this new school.

Allowing the public to be part of this process sends the right message: this is your school. After all, it will no doubt be a focal point of the neighbourhood and the school community in general for many, many years to come. Thousands of people will have a vested interest in its success.

The public, to its credit, responded.

In fact, they responded overwhelmingly, and overwhelmingly in favour of one option. Of the 13 in-person submissions, seven suggested the school be named in honour of the late Dr. David Dibbon, a former teacher, principal, school board trustee and dean of education at Memorial. Only one other proposal (for Dorothy Wyatt) received more than one submission (three).

Of the 700-plus email submissions, over 630 suggested Dr. David Dibbon. That is a substantial and resounding majority. Clearly that idea struck a chord in the community.

When the committee came to its decision, they recommended “Waterford Valley High.” This name simply reflects the location of the building. It does not reflect any values or ideals on which this school could be built.

Dr. Dibbon stood for excellence in education. He was a leader and a pioneer in technology-based education methods. He believed strongly in fitness and physical activity and he was a believer in the power of schools to strengthen a community and neighbourhood spirit.

I know there has been a trend in recent years, both in the province and out, of naming schools after locations, and maybe sometimes that’s OK.

Sometimes, however, you have an opportunity to honour someone with a dedication that is truly fitting.

The guidelines on the district’s website regarding naming and re-naming schools clearly puts the ultimate decision in the hands of the trustees and spells out the process. Here are the relevant points:

• The board maintains the general right and responsibility to name, re-name and dedicate all schools in the district.

• The naming/re-naming of schools should be undertaken following consultation with the community.

• The board will consider names that relate to the location of the school, persons who have made an outstanding contribution to the country, province or municipality, or to public service on behalf of children, and have significant meaning to the community.

Obviously, from these guidelines, we can see that the community is an important part of this process.

While I truly respect the work and effort of the committee, I am asking that the board of trustees reject the name “Waterford Valley High” for the new high school. The overwhelming opinion of the community has to mean something. 

Take this opportunity to honour someone whose entire professional career was dedicated to education in one way or another and whose impact on education in our city, province and country was enormous.


Scott Fitzgerald writes from St. John’s.

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Recent comments

  • A. Andrews
    March 17, 2014 - 06:36

    Call it Waterford Riverdale High, and put a statue of Forsythe "Jughead" Pendleton Jones III on the concourse. We are having the democratic process with the name game while our govt runs education into a centralized impossibility. In spite of his reputation as slow and lazy, you know, Jughead is frequently shown to be extremely intelligent, and often surprises his skeptical friends (notably Reggie Mantle and Veronica Lodge) with his vast knowledge on a wide variety of subjects, including history, anthropology, literature, linguistics, and science. In several issues, Jughead has demonstrated that his IQ is well above average. He is an extremely good student, which exasperates his teachers when he sometimes pays them no attention. His intelligence varies from story to story. In many cases, he has trouble keeping decent grades, but was once given an award for being the best student in the school. Once, in Little Archie, it was revealed that as a student, Jughead was second only to Dilton Doiley. His intelligence is displayed by his sharp wit, the occasional deep insight, and the odd chance he gets to upstage or outsmart Reggie Mantle. In one issue, Mr. Weatherbee tries to cut down on Jughead's food consumption, only to realize that Jughead's brain stops functioning without massive amounts of food. Professor Flutesnoot implies that Jughead's brain burns all the calories, which keeps him thin.

  • Cp
    March 16, 2014 - 10:26

    First off I like the name, I think it should be kept. Secondly, if ppl are small enough to compare the school to the Waterford Hospital then let them have their chuckle - you can't change the mind of these sorts of ppl. My children will be going to this school. And I personally dislike the idea of naming it after one individual. The school is situated in the Waterford Valley so its appropriate. You will never satisfy everyone with the name so make the decision and be done. Those who don't like it send your kids elsewhere.

  • A
    March 16, 2014 - 08:43

    The proposed name lacks inspiration or distinction. It's a description of location and fails to provide any sense of unity or community pride. I think it is a poor choice for the West Ends first high school. It sounds cliche and outdated already.

  • deemarie
    March 16, 2014 - 08:39

    I think the name Waterford Valley High is very fitting. This was the choice and I think becasue one or two has to put a negitive spin on it, is no reason to change the name. I think Waterford Valley High is very wonderful.

  • A mom
    March 15, 2014 - 11:35

    Yes I do believe that the schools name should reflect on all the children who will attend there,I do live in the Waterford valley but not all kids who will b attending there comes from the Waterford valley area,the school will be on Topsail Rd not Waterford bridge Rd.As for the name Mr Writer if you didn't know this Dr Dibbons personally would you still feel the same about the name of the school.

    • Brian
      March 20, 2014 - 11:54

      Well my child will be going to Holy Spirit High in a couple of years, and that doesn't reflect on him at all. We don't go to church, do not follow any particular faith, and don't even know what a holy spirit is. All this to say I could complain because it doesn't reflect on my child, but I don't, because there are many larger issues in the world (and indeed, in our province) that we should be focusing on, not the name of a school.

    • Brian
      March 20, 2014 - 11:55

      Well my child will be going to Holy Spirit High in a couple of years, and that doesn't reflect on him at all. We don't go to church, do not follow any particular faith, and don't even know what a holy spirit is. All this to say I could complain because it doesn't reflect on my child, but I don't, because there are many larger issues in the world (and indeed, in our province) that we should be focusing on, not the name of a school.

  • Leah
    March 15, 2014 - 11:27

    Corporate Psycho, Everyone is entitled to their own opinion. I also agree that this is not a good name for a high school that will be attended by thousands upon thousands for many years into the future from all parts of the City.

  • Ivy
    March 15, 2014 - 11:11

    Folks I do believe that the implications of many comments from people who have a problem with the name chosen for your school is that you are still embarrassed by mental illness. We are supposed to be forward thinking people yet we are willing to allow years of stigma associated with mental illness drift into the minds of young children. Lets champion mental illness and embrace the Waterford Valley High as being an all encompassing part of where it's located and all people no matter what illness that it may be associated with. We are so disillusioned by what people may associate our children with yet we may have a child who will need the services of the Waterford hospital and I can assure you that we will not want children to look at them with that same stigma that you exhibit in your letters and comments.

  • A mom
    March 15, 2014 - 10:14

    Both my children will be attending this school when it opens,I also disagree with the name as it is not located in the Waterford Valley it is Topsail Rd,second when someone ask my kid where he goes to school,what's going to be the response The Waterford! But I do disagree with the name that you are referring to again I know him,I know his kids from going to school with mine so I don't think it should be called after anyone and Jeff hat does these people have to do with us.If it's going to be such a high tech high school,maybe it should sound more like a mature Westend Tech High School.There is more of us involved in attending this high school then Waterford Valley and people who most didn't even know.

  • Corporate Psycho
    March 15, 2014 - 09:15

    People need to get a grip.

  • Susan
    March 15, 2014 - 08:35

    Surely out of all the submissions, there must have been a more appropriate, unique, meaningful name than this?

  • Jeff
    March 15, 2014 - 08:18

    Newfoundland remains a very insular and inward looking society. Has any thought been given to names like Nelson Mandela, Oscar Peterson or other inspirational people who did not necessarily come from this province or country? Just asking.