Community contributions to programming and parent volunteers are some of the things Brandon School Division’s aboriginal education advisory committee is working on for the new year.
Committee members include school board trustees, an aboriginal elder, a local social worker, a Dakota Ojibway Police Service member, several Brandon Police Service officers as well as various school parent representatives.
The initiative, given the green light in September 2012, is dedicated to improving the engagement and success of aboriginal students.
As reported earlier in the Sun, BSD’s 2012-13 Student Achievement Summary Report showed signs that aboriginal students in Brandon schools are falling behind in a variety of subject areas. Fewer aboriginal students are meeting expectations in reading, writing and numeracy compared to non-aboriginal students and a greater number of non-aboriginal students are meeting grade-level expectations — a trend seen in previous years, the report states.
School board chair Mark Sefton said a key moving forward is integrating not only more aboriginal culture into the curriculum but a wide range to reflect the diversity of students throughout division.
“If their pasts are being recognized, they’re a little more engaged in their classes,” Sefton said. “This is not just for aboriginal kids, it’s for the whole student body.”
BSD also hired an aboriginal education learning specialist in May 2012, Sefton said. Amie Martin assists with curriculum development, program planning, professional development, support services and community partnerships.
“There’s lots of agencies and groups out there that have some expertise that they’re willing to share with Brandon School Division, with our teachers and with our support staff,” Sefton said. “Anything along those lines that works for kids we want to pursue as much as we can.”
One initiative that Martin is currently working on, Sefton said, is integrating more parents of students with aboriginal decent into schools. While a handful of parents have showed some interest so far, some of them don’t have photo identification, which makes getting the necessary background checks to volunteer in schools difficult.
“One of the things Amie is working on is finding a way that we can bridge that gap somehow ... so they can volunteer,” Sefton said. “If we’ve got aboriginal parents or aboriginal elders volunteering in the schools then that provides one more role model or one more example for our students.”
Having a big committee with lots of community stakeholders will also help create more opportunities for students to succeed, Sefton said.
“These are people who want to continue to contribute to the community and create opportunities for kids to get a good education and to have broad opportunities once they graduate.”
The aboriginal education advisory committee has held three meetings so far. Its next meeting will take place on Jan. 13.
Republished from the Brandon Sun print edition December 30, 2013