SPERD puts emphasis on achievement for all
St Paul Education Regional Division No. 1 (SPERD) serves nearly 4000 students in 18 schools: from Ashmont to Heinsburg, from Mallaig to Plains Lake Hutterite colony. These 4000 kids are educated, nurtured, and guided by 262 teachers and approximately 360 support staff, including secretaries, instructional assistants, custodians, librarians, maintenance personnel, liaison workers, and technicians.
Within SPERD, 25 percent of the student population is educated through federal tuition agreements with Indigenous and Northern Affairs Canada including students from Frog Lake, Kehewin, Saddle Lake, and Whitefish Lake First Nations.
At its March meeting, the SPERD board reviewed its Annual Education Results Report emphasizing the importance of closing the achievement gap between First Nations, Metis, and Inuit (FNMI) students and the non-FNMI students.
Statistics show that in 2015 the high school completion rate within the school division for students not identified as FNMI was 70.3%, while for FNMI students the completion rate was 56.8%. To eliminate this gap, SPERD is introducing the following strategies: developing the position of FNMI graduation coach who will “work individually with high school FNMI students and their families on fulfilling graduation requirements, academic counselling, and post-secondary and scholarship applications”; hiring community advocates from the affected First Nations to “connect communities and enhance communications at the leadership, community and school level”; participating in bi-monthly meetings with the Saddle Lake education authority; and building awareness and cultural sensitivity through activities, ceremonies, and visitations.
Currently, although FNMI students represent one-quarter of the schools’ enrollments, the school board does not have an FNMI trustee. 2017 is a school board election year, and SPERD has developed a position for a trustee to be recommended collectively by the Chief and Council from Saddle Lake, Whitefish Lake, Frog Lake, and Kehewin.
Through these initiatives, SPERD intends to bring First Nation students and families into full partnership in their education and reduce the gap in academic achievement.