Clear path ahead
Education council plans for the future

Daniel MacIsaac
Northern News Services

Inuvik (Feb 18/00) - The Beaufort Delta Education Council staged its first regional meeting of the year last week and covered issues ranging from testing to recruiting teachers.

Council chair Bob Simpson said that while the meeting in Inuvik on Friday and Aklavik on Saturday didn't produce any revolutionary recommendations, progress on reform was made.

"I don't think there was a change of direction in strategy but just that things are becoming much clearer," he said.

"We had a five-year plan, introduced new council members and have a clearer idea where we're going, for example, with testing and using it as an assessment tool."

Simpson said it was a relief to those who attended that the teachers have ratified their contract and that the government has committed to work toward establishing smaller class sizes and find more funding for special-needed students.

"The fact that that's settled allows us to build on the successes we have now," he said.

"Though we still allow a lot of local autonomy when it comes to how communities can use any extra funding for things like special needs, they have the imagination on how to utilize the money ... and may hire Beaver volunteers, for instance, or come up with other ideas."

Executive director James Anderson said council may have to look at re-instituting some sort of student residence in Inuvik.

Special projects director Dave Button had said a number of problems surround the current arrangement of "home-boarding," where students are at designated homes in Inuvik, Cambridge Bay or Kugluktuk when they want to obtain secondary-school grades not offered in their community.

Button added the problems include truancy, domestic problems, a lack of communication with parents and simple failure to complete school.

"We may be looking at a small eight- to 12-student residence staffed by a local couple," said Anderson. "It may be more efficient, but we won't be in a position to make a decision until we consult with the students' parents and the communities."

Last week's meetings were slightly longer for the regional principals -- including Bernie MacLean from Sir Alexander Mackenzie school -- who also met on Tuesday, Wednesday and Thursday in Inuvik. They covered topics ranging from literacy training to individual education plans.

MacLean said it was helpful that council is reviewing its recruitment policy, and examining the possibility of being able to issue tentative offers of employment to teachers in the spring -- before competition to fill vacancies becomes critical.

"We always have concerns about staffing, especially because I think there are now a lot of places in Canada that are looking for teachers, as well as the NWT," he said.

"We advertised nationally for a position that we have open now and received some response but not a whole lot, and most from a lot of new teachers."

The subject of funding for standardized testing also arose at the council meeting, following its introduction into regional schools this year on the recommendation of the Beaufort Delta Leadership Conference.

Inuvialuit representative Nellie Cournoyea said groups like the Inuvialuit Regional Corporation would have a much better idea of how to make contributions to education if the testing could stay in place and the results be assessed. Simpson agreed.

"I think we're the only board that does this type of testing, and we should stick with it for a few years," he said. "The point of the testing is not to point fingers but to see where we need to improve."