School District 67 has renewed an agreement which aims to enhance the success of Aboriginal students in the public education system.
Leaders of the Aboriginal Education Council and School District 67 met at the Penticton Lakeside Resort on April 13 to reconfirm their commitment to the Aboriginal Education Enhancement Agreement.
“Education continues to evolve at a very quick pace and the needs of our students evolve as well,” said Anne Tenning, principal of Aboriginal education at SD67. “So we want to have an agreement that lasts long enough so that we can get some momentum going with it, but we want to look at it again with fresh eyes every five years.”
The agreement was implemented immediately after it was signed, and will run through June 2020. It includes four goals: increasing awareness and understanding of Aboriginal culture, traditions, and history; improving the sense of belonging felt by Aboriginal students, including a sense of place and personal identity; nurture and foster relationships between SD67 and the Aboriginal community; and increase the educational success of all Aboriginal students.
“And success isn’t necessarily what shows up on a report card, it’s much more than that,” Tenning said.
The agreement which just expired was enacted in 2010. Braydon Jones, a Grade 12 student at Summerland Secondary School, said that the final years of his education would have been quite different had the initial enhancement agreement not existed.
“I don’t think any aboriginal programs that we have in place now would have been the same,” he said.
Jones will be studying to earn hi s bachelor of science at the University of British Columbia’s Okanagan campus. His younger sister will be graduating high school upon the completion of the new enhancement agreement, and he’s optimistic that as an Aboriginal student, he’ll have a stronger foundation for success in 2020. Jones addressed some of the work that lay ahead in a speech on Monday. Upon finding out that he was accepted to UBC, he said some of his peers commented that his application was only successful because of his Aboriginal ethnicity.
“Our children are our future,” Elder Grace Greyeyes said of the Penticton Indian Band said in a press release. “Every student should celebrate their academic accomplishments. I am proud of all our students who walk down the aisle at their graduation.”
In signing the agreement, representatives were present from the Penticton Indian Band, the Ooknakane Friendship Centre, the Okanagan Skaha Teachers Union, SD67 Aboriginal Education Program, SD67 Principals and Vice Principals Association, SD67 Board of Education, School District 67 itself, CUPE Local 523, South Okanagan Similkameen Métis Association, and the BC Ministry of Education.
“An Enhancement Agreement is a working agreement between a school district, all local Aboriginal communities and the Ministry of Education designed to enhance the educational achievement of Aboriginal students,” said Minister of Education Peter Fassbender in a press release. “The EA establishes a collaborative partnership between Aboriginal communities and school districts that involves shared decision-making and specific goal setting to meet the educational needs of Aboriginal students.”
The rate of Aboriginals throughout SD67 this year was recorded at 13.9 per cent of the student population; above the provincial rate of 11.2 per cent.
“Every school district in British Columbia has been asked by the Minister of Education to write agreements such as this,” Tenning said. “And (April 13th)’s program was a part of our responsibility to do that work.”