1. If elected, what concrete action will you take to help address the many faces of poverty and their impact on the education system?
I will work to ensure the continuation of supports already in place –one such support is Breakfast for Learning. I will also lobby to continue the pilot and extension of Leadership and Resiliency programs in the communities. This program provides students with leadership skills, strategies to cope with and bounce back from adversity and cultural activities to increase self-esteem. It is through education that we create students who are able to deal with difficult situations such as poverty and reach out to find solutions.
2. If elected, what concrete action will you take to make supports available to address the mental health and complex needs of children, youth and their families?
Schools were never intended to be the “be all and end all for all” of society’s problems. Yet they have become the lightning rod for youngsters with behavioural, interpersonal and mental challenges. Dealing with these conditions stretches the limits of our educators. Government departments need to work together to address complex challenges. I commit to investigate a “wrap-around” framework whereby health, social services, education and other agencies can coordinate and provide the supports that teachers, students and families need, which are beyond our school’s capacity.
There are many needs, particularly in the communities. This is a journey of 1,000 conversations, a journey we must resolve to continue. Our social deficits won’t abate any time soon. We need to define and actively pursue priority supports. In that regard, I would support the creation of a task force in each school that can make collective recommendations for prioritizing requirements to the inter-agency body including student services expertise, community links, etc. Ideally each school regardless of size needs an in house counselor or at least community access to one.
While there are many needs, one in particular has always been distressing to me. That is the need to develop a safety net for our 16-18 year olds who fall into limbo; they cannot access social services and they are too young to be on their own, fleeing from unhealthy homes.
3. If elected, what will you do to help teachers provide the best possible education to students and see systemic supports that include adequate funding, resources and time for teachers to create optimal learning environments for students and provide sustainable working environments for teachers?
Education Renewal’s ten year plan has embedded within it plans for systemic supports and improvements to education throughout the territories. These changes will occur over the next ten years but it is important that the priority list for some of these supports and changes be reviewed. For example, one of the components of ER will focus on supports needed for principals in small communities. This is a support that must be put in the forefront along with early childhood intervention and inclusion since many of our principals are principals, student support teachers, classroom teachers and sometimes janitors. Affordable and adequate housing is another issue and again this is not just a teacher problem””we need all the partners at the table and I will work to facilitate this. Professional development, mentorship and new teacher orientation programs are important supports for teacher.
Expectations on the school system right across Canada have increased over the last 20 years. It’s no different in the NWT. Classrooms have diversified and there is growing evidence of increased numbers of students requiring supports to take part in Inclusive Schooling environments.
In response, the Department of Education, Culture and Employment (ECE) allocates 15% of overall school contributions specifically to IS. In the 2014-15 fiscal year, approximately $27,000,000 was allocated to IS and given directly to education authorities, who can best determine how to use these funds to meet student needs.
Inclusion does create greater pressure on our educators to deal with both individual and class needs. Perhaps the answer is a greater focus on teacher in-service to more effectively deal with the needs of inclusionary students; building on both teaching and assessment skills. This could be achieved in the near-term.
We need to work together to find an effective, or at least, more effective solution. More money isn’t necessarily the solution. We have to genuinely define what will really make a difference for educators and students”¦and then look for funding for a specific improvement(s).
I applaud the work of the NWTTA and the triannual territorial teachers’ conference.