Province names school district advisors

·2 min read

British Columbia's education minister has appointed two special advisors to look into how education is delivered to Indigenous students in School District 57.

Lheidli T'enneh Nation Dayi Clayton Pountney welcomed the move, announced last week.

"I really hope this gets the relationship better and I hope they maybe actually look at some of the problems that have been going on and I really hope they fix it," Pountney said. "That's what has to happen, they have to make this better."

Kory Wilson and Catherine McGregor have until June 1 to provide a final report and have the power to enter schools and district offices and inspect board records. School district staff are required to provide full cooperation, according to the ministry.

Wilson is the executive director, Indigenous initiatives and partnerships at the B.C. Institute of Technology, and McGregor is an associate professor and associate dean of graduate programs and research at the University of Victoria’s faculty of education.

"Wilson and McGregor have extensive expertise in Indigenous education and relations, as well as educational leadership and effectiveness, which will support their review," the ministry said in a press release.

In a separate statement, education minister Jennifer Whiteside said the step was taken in response to several concerns, ranging from relations among partners and rightsholders to lower student outcomes.

"It’s important that any decision by the Province be informed by Indigenous perspectives, particularly given the significant number of Indigenous students enrolled in the district," Whiteside said.

The Lheidli T'enneh Nation and the McLeod Lake Indian Band have been working in tandem to gain a greater say in the school district's policies and procedures, citing low graduation rates among their youth as a prime reason.

They have been pushing to add two Indigenous trustees to the board - a move that gained trustees' support in November - and earlier this month, they called for an audit of how money earmarked for Indigenous students in the school district is spent.

Whether an audit will be part of the work they pursue is not yet known and details on exactly what the two will be doing remained vague.

"They do have the mandate, they can look into whatever they want," Pountney said

Pountney estimated there are about 70 youth from LTN attending schools in Prince George, each coming with about $41,000 in funding. He said decisions on how the money is spent are left to the principals at each school.

"Other districts have a different method of how they allocate their dollars and I think we have a very old way of doing that so...what if the dollars aren't hitting our youth?" Pountney said.

In a statement, McLeod Lake Indian Band deputy chief Jayde Duranleau said MLIB looks forward to working with the special advisors.

School board chair Trent Derrick referred requests for comment to the Ministry of Education.

Mark Nielsen, Local Journalism Initiative Reporter, Prince George Citizen