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Report on Northland almost ready to go to minister
Officials for Northland School Division say it isn’t premature to be entering into an agreement with Kee Tas Kee Now Tribal Council to share expertise and resources even though the future of the school division remains undecided.
Since January 2010, NSD has been operating under a province-appointed trustee when then-Education Minister Dave Hancock dismissed NSD’s 23-member corporate board. Hancock also appointed a three-member inquiry team to provide recommendations on the operations of NSD. A year later, Hancock took action on one of the 48 recommendations, appointing a community engagement team to examine and respond to the recommendations. When Thomas Lukaszuk came on as the new education minister, he said he would meet with Aboriginal leaders, school trustees and community members in the NSD-service area prior to making a decision on those 48 recommendations.
“The partnership isn’t specifically referred to in the recommendations,” said Donna Barrett, who was appointed NSD superintendent in September 2010. “It is a way of working. We share students, we’re neighbouring schools. So this facilitates us working together on an ongoing basis.”
Barrett said it is her job to look at how best to deliver educational services.
The first recommendation made by the inquiry team, which was led by former Peace River School Division superintendent Dave van Tamelen, was for the boundaries of NSD to remain the same. The agreement signed between NSD and Kee Tas Kee Now Tribal Council is for the school division to share educational programming, resources and services with the schools within the tribal council; it does not involve adding more schools to the division.
Some of the other recommendations involved work to be undertaken directly by NSD staff, said Colin Kelly, who was appointed as trustee for the school division in 2010 and is a former superintendent.
“Those (recommendations) that were specific to Northland, we’ve already taken some very major steps,” he said. He noted that focus on literacy and numeracy has already gotten underway.
The community engagement team, under the leadership of Lesser Slave Lake MLA Pearl Calahasen as one of the co-chairs, developed a model to engage the communities in a culturally appropriate manner.
Calahasen said it was important for the community to be involved in the education of the children.
“They developed a model of community engagement which we used already in two or three circumstances and proved to be effective. Hopefully it will be used by other government departments when it comes to genuinely consulting and engaging First Nation communities,” said Kelly.
Initially the community engagement team was given until October 2011 to deliver its report. However the deadline was extended.
“We are just going through our final steps. We are so close, but we just aren’t finished yet,” said Calahasen. “Minister Lukaszuk has asked us to give him the report. That report will contain what kind of recommendations we have for him and how to do it.”
Once the report is delivered to the minister and the recommendations addressed, Kelly doesn’t expect any further committees to be struck.
“The only other committee we’re going to want to see is the board of trustees back in place at some point in time soon,” said Kelly.
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