Submitted by Councillor Helen Miller
This term of council I have again volunteered to focus on Education. I do have my work cut out for me because there are so many issues with Education right now. This report is to highlight many of those issues.
First Nations Education Act (FNEA):
At the AFN last December, the Chiefs of Ontario supported a resolution rejecting the FNEA because the Harper government failed to adequately consult with First Nations people. Since then, the Political Confederacy of the Chiefs of Ontario which Six Nations is a participant has supported an Ontario First Nations Draft Political Accord on the Implementation of First Nations’ Jurisdiction over Education. The objective is to develop an inter-jurisdictional agreement between First Nations and Canada. As well the Iroquois Caucus has publically rejected the FNEA. Other First Nations such as Akwasasne are developing their own Education Law. In a surprise move on Feb. 7 Prime Minister Stephen Harper and AFN National Chief Shawn Atleo announced the, “First Nations Control of First Nations Education Act” (FNCFNEA). Neither Ontario’s Regional Chief Stan Beardy who is a member of the AFN Executive or AIAI Grand Chief Gord Peters who is a member of the AFN’s Chiefs Committee on Education participated in any discussions leading up to the announcement. First Nations were not consulted and Six Nations has yet to see a draft of the FNCFNEA to facilitate any kind of local grassroots discussion. First Nations in Ontario are adamant that federal legislation is not the path forward but rather nation to nation jurisdictional agreements.
Education Ad Hoc Committee: Committee members are: Councillors Helen Miller; Bob Johnson; Sherri-Lyn Hill Pierce; & Mark Hill and Chief Hill. This Committee was established to keep council abreast of all the education issues and to support the community in moving forward on assuming jurisdiction over our education. To date, two community meetings have been held. More meetings are planned to determine what the next steps should be and how those steps will be implemented. The next community meeting is March 5, 2014 in the Cayuga Room at Six Nations Polytech.
Six Nations Schools Evaluation:
INAC is proposing a comprehensive review of Six Nations Elementary Schools. On Feb 3 Michel Burrowes, Director, Evaluation, Performance Measurement and Review Branch made a presentation to council to discuss the possibility of INAC and Six Nations working together on the review. The issue has been referred to the Education Ad Hoc Committee.
Bill C-3 which has resulted in a large number of people being added to the band list has put a significant strain on the post-secondary budget. The first call for many new registrants is to the Grand River Post-Secondary Education Office. The problem is INAC didn’t allocate any new money to cover the additional members. I cannot stress enough to those students applying for funding to hand all the required paper work in as early as possible.
Grand Erie District School Board Tuition Agreement Negotiations:
Currently GEDSB is wrapping up negotiations on a new Tuition Agreement with INAC. I sat on the negotiating team as did Mary McDonald, Six Nations rep on The Board. Once the negotiations are finalized a report will be forth coming.
Grand Erie District School Board’s Native Advisory Committee:
GEDSB also has a Native Advisory Committee (NAC). I sit on this committee as council’s rep. Deneen Montour is the Native Advisor and there is also a technician. Just recently NAC presented its annual report to council. This can be viewed on GEDSB’s website.
GEDSB’s Accommodation Review Committee:
GEDSB has initiated an Accommodation Review Committee (ARC) to conduct a review of McKinnon Park in Caledonia (MPSS), Hagersville Secondary (HSS), Cayuga Secondary (CSS) and Dunneville Secondary (DSS). Currently Six Nations has 401 students attending high schools in Haldimand County. ARC’s job is address issues of declining enrolment and aging facilities amongst other issues. The criteria for initiating an accommodation review is when a school is operating below 75 per cent of its rated capacity and the student population in a school area is projected to decline or there is no projected growth for a school that is below 75 per cent of its rated capacity. The current utilization of the four secondary schools is 69 per cent (calculates to 1,011 surplus spaces). The five-year projection is 62 per cent and the 10 year projection is 55 per cent. Public consultations are an important part of the accommodation review process. So ARC is holding community meetings at the four secondary schools. In November, Chief Hill and I attended the first meeting held at CSS. At this meeting Melissa Turner, teacher at HSS, questioned why Six Nations board rep Mary McDonald wasn’t on the committee. The next meeting was held on Jan. 26 at MPSS. Chief Hill was out of town so I attended the meeting. ARC announced that given Tuition Agreement Students (mostly from Six Nations) made up 20 per cent of the student population Mary McDonald was approved as an ARC member. The problem is MPSS’s student population is over capacity of about 400-500 students. MPSS has had to incorporate 10-12 portables to accommodate the influx of students. Of the 401 Six Nations students attending Haldimand County secondary schools the majority attend MPSS. GEDSB’s Quality Accommodation Committee (QAC) recommends several options based on the projected student enrolment data. The one option that concerns me is the option to change attendance boundaries to direct more students to underutilized schools. The QAC determined that Attendance Boundaries for Tuition Agreement Students could be considered to ease overcrowding at MPSS and balance enrolment. What happens when an Attendance Boundary is put in place is that Six Nations are encouraged to attend a secondary school closest to where they live. Six Nations Students could still attend MPSS for example but they would have to find their own ride. An Attendance Boundary changes bus routes. What impact if any would this have on the estimated 120 Six Nations students attending Assumption College under the Brant Haldimand Norfolk Catholic District School Board? The QAC has also recommended finding ways to increase Six Nations’ student attendance at GEDSB’s schools. I told ARC at the MPSS meeting that talk of boundaries concerns me because there will be an impact to Six Nations students and that hopefully ARC will come up with positive solutions that will benefit everyone. I also told ARC that Six Nations has talked about building its own high school which would greatly impact GEDSB. I said even though those talks haven’t been on the table in a number of years the implementation of boundaries may reinvigorate those talks.
The next meeting is on Tuesday Feb. 18 at Dunnville Secondary School and Tuesday Mar. 25 at Hagersville Secondary School. Also the full report from the QAC can be seen on GEDSB’s website as well meeting minutes from the community meetings. All reports relating to ARC can be accessed on GEDSB’s website and the Aboriginal Mentorship Program can be accessed via Google.