Election 2014: Increasing grad rates

Mentorship, early years prep and language are ways some candidates hope to increase graduation rates in the Nanaimo school district.

Mentorship, early years preparation and language are ways some prospective trustees hope to increase graduation rates in the Nanaimo school district.

According to the most current numbers for the 2012-13 school year, 72.3 per cent of students graduated from high school in Nanaimo, while 56.2 per cent of aboriginal students graduated. That marked an increase from 2011-12, when the rates were 71.6 and 49.9 per cent, respectively.

Ttrustee candidate Natasha Bob said 100 per cent graduation would be ideal, although any improvement on the current numbers would be good. Mentorship would be key, she said.

“I think there’s a wide variety of supports that could be available, not just for aboriginal students,” said Bob. “I think there is a need for support workers in our schools and to me that is very important because for all students, the transition to adulthood is the most challenging and creates a lot of anxiety and a lot of stress and that really limits their potential to succeed.”

Bill Robinson, an incumbent trustee, said improving the graduation rate among aboriginal students begins with making them feel welcome. He arranged to get welcome signs in English and Hul’qumi’num, the language of the Snuneymuxw First Nation, and recorded frequently used Hul’qumi’num phrases and will encourage teachers to use them in classrooms.

He said last year, work was done to start a Spuptitul, a Hul’qumi’num language competition, with about a few hundred children involved in that.

“It’s just making language and culture more prevalent in the school district and that’s where we’re starting,” Robinson said.

In terms of increasing general student population graduation, he said the ideas would come from the experts but if elected, he and the board would make sure solutions were found.

Robinson said he would like to see graduation rates for students and aboriginal students equal.

Nelson Allen, another trustee candidate, said said work must start at the very beginning.

“We have a [estimated] third of our student population, that when they enter the school, are not school ready. So that’s some parental responsibility here and responsibility for us to work with parents on getting children ready to actually start to be ready to enter the school system with some of the fundamentals,” said Allen.