Rob Fleming, B.C. minister of education, left, speaks with Jerry Brown, Snuneymuxw First Nation elder, at Nanaimo District Secondary School Friday. The B.C. government announced $3 million for local education agreements with First Nations, with over $20,000 allocated for Nanaimo Ladysmith Public Schools. (KARL YU/News Bulletin)

Nanaimo Ladysmith school district gets funding for aboriginal learning partnerships

B.C. Education Minister Rob Fleming in Nanaimo for announcement

Nanaimo Ladysmith Public Schools has been granted more than $20,000 to spend on agreements intended to help indigenous students graduate.

The B.C. Ministry of Education announced Friday that Nanaimo Ladysmith school district will receive $20,550 for local education agreements to ensure area First Nations are directly involved when it comes to decision-making related to how aboriginal students are educated.

The agreement is essentially a partnership between a First Nations community and school district to ensure the school system is working for children, said B.C. Education Minister Rob Fleming at the funding announcement at Nanaimo District Secondary School. There are many First Nations across the province with LEAs that have seen positive results and they have demonstrated they can produce better grades and increased completion rates. Stakeholders need to push, with renewed emphasis on the benefits of the agreements, he said.

“What these agreements will do … is allow communities to come to agreement on what improved transportation looks like for indigenous kids, what sharing culture and language looks like in our school system, how we monitor progress and hold each other accountable for how well our kids are doing in school and to incorporate unique local priorities, that is key as the LEAs allow local flexibility and local content,” said Fleming.

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A local education agreement between Snuneymuxw First Nation and the school district has just expired and talks have begun. Emmy Manson, Snuneymuxw band councillor, said the agreement needs to be enhanced. One of the things she hopes to see implemented are portfolios for Snuneymuxw students that will chart them through their academic careers.

“You know when you’re in elementary school or preschool, you dream to be a fireman? And so what we want to do is that dream continues to grow each year and it’s a goal, so from a dream to a goal-setting thing that we’re following … our goal is post-secondary or going into trades or going into some employment, because right now in our community, our goal is to get people to graduate,” Manson said. “We want to set the bar higher.”

Ted Cadwallader, Nanaimo school district principal of aboriginal education, said the money will go as close to students as the district can possibly get it. Working on local education agreements is part of his job and what the district has done with the money is split it among the nations, he said.

“We’ve said that, ‘You know who your students are, you know what they need the most, so please do with it as you will,’” Cadwallader said.

The district’s allocation was part of $3 million from the ministry granted for local education agreements, which the province said is part of the B.C. tripartite education agreement between the province, the Government of Canada and the First Nations education steering committee.

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