SD 6 commits to Aboriginal learning



COMMITMENT TO CULTURE  Left to right, Rocky Mountain school district board chair Amber Byklum, Shuswap Band chief Barb Cote and Akisqnuk First Nation chief Lorne Shovar at the signing of the school districts first Aboriginal Education Enhancement Agreement on June 17th. Photo submitted
COMMITMENT TO CULTURE Left to right, Rocky Mountain school district board chair Amber Byklum, Shuswap Band chief Barb Cote and Akisqnuk First Nation chief Lorne Shovar at the signing of the school districts first Aboriginal Education Enhancement Agreement on June 17th. Photo submitted

The Rocky Mountain School District (SD 6) has made a commitment to bettering Aboriginal learning in its schools. On June 17th, it signed the Aboriginal Education Enhancement Agreement. The agreement supports the academic, cultural and social needs of all Aboriginal students in SD 6 through changes to course material, the addition of support workers in schools, and a higher rate of cultural events.

Amber Byklum, SD 6 board chair, said the agreement is a huge step forward for education across the district.

This agreement is a statement of our shared commitment and vision for all Aboriginal learners, and signifies the importance that we all place on the relationships that support the educational enhancement of each student, Ms. Byklum said.

SD 6 superintendent Paul Carriere said many changes have already been made over the last few years to prepare for the formalized agreement.

The district has 15 Aboriginal education support workers who help teachers integrate Aboriginal content into classrooms and provide academic assistance to students. Support workers also connect elders to classrooms and plan community events.

We are funded as a school district… to provide over and above services to Aboriginal students to meet those goals, Mr. Carriere said. We use the majority of those funds to make sure that workers are available in all of our schools.

Mr. Carriere said the agreement could not have been signed without the collaboration of several Aboriginal groups and the provincial government.

A sincere thank you to our partners, Akisqnuk First Nation, Shuswap Indian Band, Metis Nation BC, all students and families of Aboriginal ancestry and the Ministry of Education, Mr. Carriere said.

Between 2009-10 and 2013-14, the six-year completion rate for Aboriginal students in SD 6 jumped from 55.7 per cent to 63.4 per cent. Mr. Carriere said the plan is to keep that number on the rise.

In particular, we pay attention to our reading achievement levels, he said. We know that literacy is critical for future success. It is about the future of these kids and their lifelong learning.

SD 6 had an Aboriginal student population of 601 during the 2014-15 school year, which made up 19 per cent of the districts student population.

The agreement has come at a significant time for Aboriginal people across the country, with the Truth and Reconciliation Commission wrapping up earlier this month after seven years of research. Though the commission focused heavily on residential schools during the 20th century, modern Aboriginal rights were explored as well.

The commission presented five categories that needed to be improved across the country. Education for Aboriginal people was one of the categories, provoking questions about what can be done to make things better.

Upon signing the agreement, SD 6 joined 55 other school districts that have formalized a commitment to improving Aboriginal education.

It is about honouring and promoting Aboriginal cultures and traditional teachings, Mr. Carriere said.

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