Wolf Creek Public Schools (WCPS) trustees unanimously approved a request from current principal Ian Tisdale to rebrand the Ponoka Outreach School as the BRICK Learning Centre. Photo by Jeffrey Heyden-Kaye

WCPS approves new name for Ponoka Outreach School

Trustees accept suggestion to rename Ponoka Outreach, awaiting Alberta Education approval

A process that began nearly two years ago will soon conclude with the renaming of a Ponoka school.

At its meeting April 12, Wolf Creek Public Schools (WCPS) trustees unanimously approved a request from current principal Ian Tisdale to rebrand the Ponoka Outreach School as the BRICK Learning Centre.

Tisdale, who was offered the principal post in 2016 gave a presentation during the meeting with trustees voting in favour of the idea later that afternoon.

He began by telling trustees that, from the day he got the offer, he started formulating the idea of a new name for the school.

“On May 27, I wrote in my notebook — float the idea of a rebranding in the future as there is a negative connotation to outreach schools and specifically with the acronym POS,” Tisdale pointed out.

He added there was not negative intent with the original name, however POS nowadays has a completely different meaning especially in this social media age.

“Five or 10 years ago, POS meant nothing, but moving forward in this digital age it has become very negative,” said Tisdale.

“That is the first foundational piece in this for me. On top of this, when one looks at the perception of students that typically attend an outreach school are those who need a different level of help. So perhaps, they are already a bit maligned and now you have the internal context of students going, ‘I’m this kind of student going to this kind of school.’”

In addition, Tisdale noted that even talking to others in the educational field, he found the negative perceptions of an ‘outreach’ school is pervasive.

“However, the reality is so much different. We met the various needs of our students every day and seen some amazing transitions among students,” he said.

Two other reasons for a new name were the different direction of the school culture and operation along with the move to a new facility early in 2016.

“(This building) is a different reality from the previous building and the new name will help further align with the new direction and focus on academics and program options for students,” Tisdale explained.

Since September 2016, staff and students at the outreach have been consulted multiple times along with parents, which included gathering suggestions and coming to a consensus about the new name.

That name needed to be positive, sensitive to the area First Nations, uncomplicated and represent Ponoka.

“The Brick School has a long history in Ponoka, the learning centre name more reflects what we do and helps take away the negative stigma that is attached to an outreach school,” he said.

He added the name also has some great metaphors and works into the school’s mantra — Building, Relationship, Independence, Community, Knowledge.

Trustees liked the historical significance of the suggestion and were surprised to learn of the POS negative meaning.

With the board approval, a school renaming application has been sent to Alberta Education for its approval. Once that is received, WCPS will move forward with an official ceremony likely this fall.

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