June 4, 2019 --
Lheidli T'enneh wants representation on Board of Education
Clayton Pountney, recently elected Chief of the Lheidli T'enneh, has called for representation of the First Nation on the School District No. 57 Board of Education.
Pountney made his case during the board's regular public meeting on Tuesday, May 28.
"My understanding is that almost one third of the students in the district are considered to be of Indigenous ancestry," Pountney said during time allotted for public input. "Prince George is home to Indigenous people from at least 40 different communities and Nations. Prince George is the administrative and business centre for many Indigenous communities and organizations from around Central British Columbia and I believe it is time for our governments and institutions to better reflect this modern-day reality.
"Tonight, I call on the Board of Education for School District 57 to work with us to ensure all Indigenous students in the district are supported properly. And to ensure that this occurs, I further call on the Board of Education to support us in all efforts to have one of the seven trustee positions filled by a Lheidli member. The Board of Education of School District 57 has considerable influence over the education of Lheidli and other Indigenous students. It's time a Lheidli trustee was part of the decision-making process to ensure the interests of our community and all Indigenous students are protected within our territory.
"While I don't have the answers this evening as to how this change should occur and when, what I can say is the new (Lheidli) council is resolved to see this change occur and do everything in its power to make it happen. We believe this is the next step in building on the success of the LEA, the Local Education Agreement, which we signed in July 2017 between our Nation and School District 57."
Board Chair Tim Bennett thanked Pountney for his presentation and added that "we as a board are really looking forward to working with yourself and members of council over the remainder of our term and look forward to scheduling a meeting in the very near future."
District tackling Truth and Reconciliation
Also at the May 28 board meeting, Trustee Trent Derrick's motion that School District No. 57 form an ad hoc committee to review how the district can implement calls to action of the Truth and Reconciliation Report and the United Nations Declaration of the Rights of Indigenous Peoples received unanimous support.
"This committee will allow School District 57 to partner with local First Nations, community groups and other levels of government to establish precedent-setting partnerships with local First Nations," Derrick said. "These changes are coming and it is important that School District 57 lead the way instead of trying to catch up when the Canadian and provincial governments legislate these changes," Derrick said in an address to fellow trustees.
In response to Derrick's motion, Trustee Ron Polillo said good work has been done on reconciliation in the district.
"But I see this as the next step to build on the good work that we've done, and get better and improve and include some other Indigenous voices that haven't been at the table," Polillo added. "This recommendation and this motion has my full support."
Bennett, a member of the B.C. School Trustees Association Indigenous Education Committee for the past year and the trustee representative on the K to 12 Aboriginal Partners Council, gave Derrick's motion strong backing as well.
"It's true that this is where government is going, and rightfully so, but there's still a lot of work to be done throughout school districts," Bennett said. "I believe School District 57, working with Lheidli T'enneh and McLeod Lake Indian Band and our other First Nations partners, can really lead the way in the province."
The next step will be for school district staff to draw up the terms of reference for the committee.
Food security committee taking shape
Trustee Derrick's initiative regarding the formation of an ad hoc committee to review School District No. 57s food programs in regard to the B.C. Poverty Reduction Strategy's food security recommendation took another step forward at the May 28 meeting.
The establishment of the committee was approved at the April 9, 2019 board meeting and, on May 28, the terms of reference laid out by Derrick received unanimous approval from the board after one amendment – that Indigenous representation be added to the committee membership.
"There should be an Indigenous voice on this committee – perhaps two voices would be wise," said Vice Chair Sharel Warrington. "Our programs in our schools are there to provide meals for all children but many of our Indigenous children do benefit, particularly in the inner-city schools."
Also on the committee will be: two Trustees, two Assistant Superintendents; the Director of Finance; one member of the Facility Services Department; one member of the Prince George Principal/Vice Principal Association; one member of the Prince George District Teachers' Association; one member each from CUPE Local 3742 and CUPE Local 4991; one member of the District Parent Advisory Council; one Early Learning Coordinator; and one School District Meals Program Coordinator.
The ad hoc committee will receive and review information on the successes, challenges and opportunities of food security in School District No. 57 with the intent of supporting the daily nutritional requirements of students so they can thrive in the classroom.
The committee will start meeting in September 2019.
PGSS smokehouse project gets approval
After the project got the green light from the board, a traditional Aboriginal smokehouse will be built at Prince George Secondary School.
The smokehouse, which will measure eight feet by 10 feet, will be located directly behind the existing Aboriginal Education Outdoor Learning Space, which can be found between the main parking lot and the front of the school.
"Traditional smokehouses are structures used by First Nations communities to cure salmon," said PGSS Vice Principal Conrad Turner. "Smokehouses are not only culturally significant but rely on traditional knowledge that highlights an understanding of how salmon impact the animals and the forest ecosystems on which we all depend.
"The rationale for the project is both national and local," Turner continued. "In response to the Truth and Reconciliation Calls to Action, we seek to build student capacity for intercultural understanding, empathy and mutual respect. At the local level, we seek to honour our commitments to the McLeod Lake Indian Band Local Education Agreement and facilitate positive interactions between school staff, community, parents and elders, as well as honour our commitment to the Lheidli T'enneh and their Local Education Agreement to ensure that visually we reflect First Nations culture in School District 57 infrastructure."
All materials for the project have already been sourced and the cost will be borne by PGSS. Woodshop students from the school will handle the construction.