School District looks ahead to another positive five years

Erin Perkins
By Erin Perkins
June 29th, 2012

After experiencing five years of positive results, School District 51, the provincial government and local aboriginal leaders signed a second aboriginal enhancement agreement during a special ceremony, Wednesday, June 27.

The first agreement, which was signed five years ago, was so successful that the school district saw an increase of 17.7 per cent (from 69 per cent in 2005-2006 to 86.7 per cent in the 2010-2011 school year) in the aboriginal graduation rates. About 25 per cent or 350 Boundary students claim aboriginal ancestry.

The medicine wheel is at the heart of this new agreement with an emphasis on balance between the physical and spiritual needs of the students. Like the first agreement, the emphasis is on all students learning about aboriginal culture. It was created through extensive community consultation, especially with the Boundary Métis Community Association and Boundary All Nations Aboriginal Council (BANAC).

The ceremony was held with a small group of about 30 people in the front foyer of Gallery 2, Grand Forks and District Art and Heritage Centre followed by a luncheon and gift giving. Accompanied by traditional drumming and singing, the group celebrated all the hard work that went into the new agreement and their hopes for future success.

“This is a commitment to building on to the results of the first agreement and I want to see those results continuing,” said Boundary-Similkameon MLA John Slater shortly before the agreement signing. “This is about a commitment to working with a shared decision making model, a commitment to making a difference to students in this community and all those of native ancestry … congratulations and carry on the good work.”

Ted Cadwallader, Enhancement Agreement Coordinator with the Aboriginal Education department of the Ministry of Education was there on behalf of the province.

He said an aboriginal voice in decision making “is great to see”.  He then reflected on the changes in attitudes and understanding of aboriginal culture that has happened in the province over the past several decades.

“We are proud of our aboriginal student success and our outstanding graduation rate,” said SD51 board chair Teresa Rezansoff. “I want to pass onto you the pride the board feels for all of your accomplishments.”

“We’ve accomplished a lot in just a short time,” said Danny Williamson, member of the Boundary Metis Association, after the ceremony.  “I’m glad to be a part of it. It does my heart good to see it … Working with the school district has been a blessing and they are open to working and listening to us.”

The historical agreement was signed by Danny Williamson of the Boundary Metis Association, Joan Holmes, president of the Boundary All Nations Aboriginal Council (BANAC), Ted Callwallader of the Ministry of Education, Teresa Rezansoff, SD51 board chair, Michael Strukoff, SD51 superintendent, MLA John Slater, Erika Schoenfeld, an Aboriginal Family Support Worker for BFISS, Victoria Runge, an Aboriginal Family Support Worker for GFSS, Wanda Hecht, teacher for the East Boundary, Marilyn Hanson, teacher for the West Boundary, Jennifer Turner, vice principal of SD51, Vicki Gee, SD51 trustee, Terry Jackson of the Boundary Metis Association and Maxine Ruzicka, SD51 director of instruction.

School District 51 is one of 53 school districts in the province with an aboriginal enhancement agreement. Of those, 11 have signed a second five-year agreement and four have signed a third.

The agreement isn’t about more funding, but the allocation of existing funds. The School District receives about $1,000 per aboriginal student a year from the provincial government. Instead of that money — which was about $350,000 last year — going into the general coffers, it is directed into achieving the goals of the agreement while also providing cultural understanding for all school district students.

To view another article on the particulars and history of this agreement please follow this link to an article that was published in The Boundary Sentinel a few months ago: https://boundarysentinel.com/news/aboriginal-enhancement-agreement-looking-ahead-five-more-years-16585.