The school board intends to keep working to close the achievement gap between First Nations and non-First Nations students, and to involve parents more in the classroom, says school board chair Andreas Uttendorfer, following the release of a district review.
“We will really work on support for parents, more support for parents coming into the schools,” Mr. Uttendorfer said. “I certainly believe there is a role for parents to play.”
Mr. Uttendorfer said that in general, he agreed with the conclusions reached by the district review team, and said their report confirms that the district is on the right path towards improving student achievement.
The seven-member team spent four days here in late April. Their report concludes that while student achievement on the islands is improving, it is not yet meeting Ministry of Education expectations. In particular, the district should be doing more to build a stronger partnership with the Haida people, it said.
Mr. Uttendorfer said he believes that the recently-formed Haida Education Council – which includes representatives from Old Massett, Skidegate and the school board – will go a long way towards achieving that goal.
“We have some fundamental expectations of that council,” he said. “It has a lot of potential, we haven’t seen the full potential yet.”
The local education agreement which the school board is close to signing with the two band councils will also help, he said.
“It is the responsibility of the school district to ensure the gap is closed between First Nations and non-First Nations,” Mr. Uttendorfer said. “We want First Nations to feel comfortable in our school system. We want parents to feel comfortable that their children will get a good education.”
School district superintendent Mike Woods said the review report was useful because it reflects the opinions of an objective team from outside the school district.
“It reaffirms we’re on the right track, and that’s important to us,” he said. “The recommendations they gave us are quite sound and we will be incorporating them.”
This means using a “full consultation model” for working with the Haida community, improving the success of Haida students, and finding ways to get parents more involved in schools and in school district business, Mr. Woods said.
The report praised the school district for several initiatives, including low class sizes, the district-wide literacy teacher position and the planned numeracy teacher, and the effective behaviour support system. But the school board must consult the Haida community more, especially when it comes to hiring school and district leaders, the report said.
Mr. Uttendorfer said the school board has discussed the possibility of adding more Haida representation to the board. The board currently has seven trustees: two represent the Haida communities of Old Massett and Skidegate, while the other five represent the non-Haida communities of Sandspit, Queen Charlotte, Tlell, Port Clements and Masset.
“The makeup of the board right now is pretty good,” Mr. Uttendorfer said, pointing out that there are currently three Haida trustees.
“It’s really a matter of discussion at this point, how could we have a different representation on the board?” he said, adding that he believes other initiatives will go further towards improving achievement than rearranging the board. “This whole issue of representation should not be overemphasized… We have to look at what is going to benefit the kids in the classroom.”
The complete district review report is available on the internet at www.bced.gov.bc.ca/review.
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