Kwayciiwin Education Resource Centre recommends developing process to form District School Board
This is my first official message as the interim executive director, and I want to express my appreciation to the Kwayaciiwin Education Resource Centre Board (KERC) for their confidence in giving me an opportunity to work with the communities. I am fully committed to the advancement of our First Nations education and language preservation.
I want to acknowledge all the KERC staff and the local educators such as: school staff, principals, education directors and local education authorities for their continued dedication and commitment in advancing First Nations education in the Sioux Lookout District.
As educators, I know we are doing the best that we can to teach our precious students in our schools, with limited funds, resources and support from Indian and Northern Affairs Canada.
I am fully aware of the on-going challenges that negatively affect your respective governance and administration responsibilities as local education authorities and community leaders.
Since 1988 when we assumed local control of our schools and to the present, how are we doing in educating our children? Are the students learning and improving as to be expected? As local education authorities, are you satisfied with the status of your First Nations education? Are you satisfied with your standard of education and achievements? Is local control of education and having the full authority to serve as a school board working in your respective community? If your response is “NO” or “I DON’T KNOW”, what are you prepared to do to make necessary changes?
As we move forward to seek solutions to the crisis state of the education system in our band operated schools, it is even more imperative and necessary to understand the urgency to initiate serious discussions among all stakeholders and partners on “how can we improve our education system in the future.” Based on education studies, school reviews and student assessments, it is evident that the students are struggling for various reasons and factors.
Our Grade 9 students continue to struggle because they are not properly prepared academically, socially and spiritually. The student retention is also a major concern in the communities and high schools. Our band operated schools continue to be funded under the same 30 year old funding formula with minimal increases while the provincial public schools enjoy funding increases based on needs. That is the “reality of our school system” and it should not be acceptable to our leadership and parents.
I believe that all parents and guardians expect the children to learn and succeed in school.
I believe that all community leadership and local education authorities expect all children to learn based on each child’s ability. I believe that the past and present teaching staff and administration personnel have performed to the best of their abilities and knowledge and based on resources available to them. I also believe that the Federal Government (Indian Northern Affairs Canada) has not up-held its legal obligation and fiduciary responsibility to support our First Nations children in education. Unfortunately, our band operated schools are severely under-funded and under-resourced, and it is challenging for the schools to mobilize and implement improvements. So, what can the local education authorities and Kwayaciiwin Education Resource Centre do or change to mobilize and attain improvements for success in our schools as partners?
Let us review the history of Sioux Lookout district education movements as it pertains to the band operated schools together as follows:
Prior to 1988, all the community schools were federal schools and managed by INAC.
In 1988, all communities assumed local control of their schools and established local education authorities to manage the education programs through a delegated authority from the Chief & Council. Many of the communities established second level education services through their affiliated tribal councils (education boards) to provide administration, supervisory, evaluation and consultation services because they were not ready to assume full responsibility to manage a school program. Supervisory and inspection authority role was given to these tribal councils (boards) to ensure principals were doing their administrative duties and responsibilities.
In late 199o’s based on INAC’s school review recommendations from the consultants, the majority of the communities transferred the critical second level education services to the local education authorities thus removing supervisory authority role from the tribal councils education boards.
The larger communities and independent First Nations continued to manage on their own with limited support.
From 1997 to the present (2013), majority of the local education authorities assumed full responsibilities as a regular school board with limited financial and human resources. LEAs are on their own to provide all the critical education and support services such as “supervisory and evaluation” at the local level.
Tribal councils provide only advisory services with limited education support services with “no authority”. And INAC will decrease the tribal councils’ education advisory funding by certain percentages in 2013-14.
In 2002-03, Kwayaciiwin Education Resource Centre (KERC) was established by Sioux Lookout District Chiefs to address the “academic readiness gaps” in our schools. KERC is your education organization and it is accountable to your chiefs. KERC Board and organization does not have any “AUTHORITY” to supervise, evaluate and direct the community schools, only to provide support and services.
Kwayaciiwin developed and provided training to teachers, principals, education directors and local education authorities, and developed new KERC curriculum guidelines that are culturally relevant.
In 2010, Sioux Lookout District Chiefs approved a resolution to implement the new KERC curriculum guidelines in all the band operated schools.
In 2005, the local education directors created the KERC’s vision “Kwayaciiwin Education Resource Centre fosters excellence and success by providing comprehensive education support services to the communities”. The long term plan is to house all academic related specialists under Kwayaciiwin Education Resource Centre, and they will provide the much needed school support services to all the school teachers, principals, support staff, education directors and local education authorities. We are moving slowly towards the vision. Currently, KERC has a number of specialists (literacy, numeracy, school success planning, assessment, language & immersion and student retention) under two programs, and we hope to continue to grow with additional specialists. In order to achieve our vision and make improvements, Kwayaciiwin Board and Sioux Lookout District Chiefs must secure “core funding for administrative and operational purposes” and explore the concept of “granting certain authorities” to the Kwayaciiwin board to properly implement, inspect and supervise your school programs on your behalf. We work together as full partners and as a team because Kwayaciiwin is your organization.
The other major issue that we all need to address is the capacity building and development for the Local Education Authorities (LEAs). As we are aware, the majority of the LEA members are local people who want to make a difference in their community. I admire their compassion and commitment but they need our help and understanding. The majority of LEAs need to be properly trained and educated to be effective governance leaders in their respective communities. They need to be trained in effective governance & leadership so that they can lead and guide the school staff. I see that LEAs are not properly utilized and I feel we need to change it. As partners, we need to empower and respect our Local Education Authorities and provide them the knowledge, skills and capacity to be effective governance bodies in your communities.
As the interim Kwayaciiwin Executive Director, I believe it is my role to advise the KERC Board, Local Education Authorities and Sioux Lookout District Chiefs on how Kwayaciiwin Education Resource Centre can assist and assume additional roles to address the educational gaps and challenges that we face in the band operated schools. I want to make it clear that it is not my intention to disrespect each Chiefs’ and LEAs authority but to provide advice and recommendations as following:
1. I want to encourage all the Chiefs & Councils and Local Education Authorities to seriously consider the idea of initiating an “exploratory process to formulate a District School Board Model” for Sioux Lookout band operated schools”. We can explore the idea of sharing or co-sharing the roles & responsibilities and authorities to ensure that the critical effective school elements are properly adhered to, such as: supervisory responsibilities, inspection, assessments, professional development / training, curriculum implementation / development and evaluation of staff.
2. I want to encourage the need to clarify and develop interdependent roles and responsibilities for Kwayaciiwin, LEAs, communities and schools. Unfortunately, we do not have a system in place yet that would enforce the academic accountability of our band operated schools.
3. I want to encourage all the Chiefs & Councils and Local Education Authorities to seriously consider taking grassroots action on the “preservation and rejuvenation of our Anshiniimowin language & culture in the schools and communities”. We need to reaffirm our immersion & language programs in our schools before it is too late. We are losing our Anshiniimowin language at an alarming rate.
As you are aware, the Federal Government (Prime Minister Harper) is planning to pass the new education legislation by 2014 that will impose all band operated schools to adhere to the proposed First Nations Education Act that is being developed and drafted now. As you know, the NAN Chiefs have rejected the proposed education legislation by resolution and supported by the Chiefs of Ontario Chiefs,but I do not think that will stop our Prime Minister. One of the recommendations that will be implemented is the need to establish regional and district education organizations that will serve as school board type of services. I believe in being “proactive”, and I think it would be advisable for Kwayaciiwin Education Resource Centre to be one of those anticipated district education organizations for the Sioux Lookout District in the near future. In order to be considered for such a challenging task, Kwayaciiwin needs to prepare, plan and develop all the control systems if that is going to be the direction of the Board and Sioux Lookout District Chiefs.
In conclusion, as noted above, it is not my intent to question each local education authority’s autonomy but to generate ideas for school improvement & success and to be proactive in the proposed changes. It is important that we continue to move forward as equal partners to seek solutions and opportunities to address the common education issues. Some of the education commonalities we need to achieve and agree to: standards of education, standardize our curriculum, standardize assessments, standardize the school support services (second & third level services), standardize policies etc. I believe if we move forward as partners in the spirit of intent to enhance and improve our education system together, we can be strong, confident and successful for the betterment and empowerment of our children and parents and community people. The direction and guidance must be grassroots driven and implemented with full support from Kwayaciiwin Education Resource Centre.
Meegetch, Thank You and May the Great Spirit Bless You and your Families
Matthew Angees, KERC Executive Director
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