Work on the Comox Valley’s third Aboriginal Education Enhancement Agreement is officially underway.
The Comox Valley School District and Aboriginal Education Council (AEC) launched the consultation process Thursday, outlining the proposed timeline and method of consultation during a presentation at the school board office.
“It’s going to be wonderful to work with the community as we set these paths out,” said assistant superintendent Tom Demeo, who then looked to some Comox Valley aboriginal students who came to the launch.
“You have a voice, and you need to let us know what it is that you need to get to that next level so that you can be successful,” he told them.
An Aboriginal Education Enhancement Agreement is a working agreement between the school district, local Aboriginal communities and the Ministry of Education which is designed to enhance the educational achievement of aboriginal students.
The current agreement expires in June and Comox Valley district principal of aboriginal education Bruce Carlos says the plan is to have the next one ready to sign by December.
A survey was launched on the school district website, www.sd71.bc.ca, Thursday, which parents or caregivers of Aboriginal children in the Comox Valley can provide comment via until the end of May.
As well, there will be gatherings in the schools, and students, teachers, support staff and Board of Education trustees will have opportunities to offer ideas, including through community dinners.
Gregory Tinga, Grade 11 chair of the Highland Aboriginal Student Council at Highland Secondary School, said he’s excited for the chance to contribute student voices to the process.
“I think it’s a great opportunity for us,” he said. “To actually voice the concerns of the student body to those people, it feels like it’s a great, I guess advantage, to having that kind of influence or at least a chance to say something to your community, and definitely change your community for the better.”
AEC focus groups will start review in June, and data collation will happen over the summer followed by more consultation with the AEC and the Aboriginal Education branch of the Ministry of Education before the agreement is drafted in October.
Ted Cadwallader, of the Ministry’s Aboriginal Education branch, noted visible changes in the district since the first agreement was signed here over a decade ago.
“The results have been dramatic, they really have,” he said. “This district is so different from 2001 because of the big changes that have happened.”
Audrey Waite, who has been a member of the AEC since it was formed in the late 90s, agrees the changes have been great, and very positive.
“We have seen an increase in graduation levels, for instance, and we are known as one of the best school districts from an aboriginal perspective in the province,” she said, adding the positive changes were possible because of an excellent relationship with the school district.
“The school administration has really embraced us as an aboriginal council. They are so respectful, it’s just amazing.”