1. What actions would you take to ensure the needs of Yellowknife students are addressed by the education system?
This is a very broad question and there is no single answer. We are on an arc of ascent. As with any process of continuous improvement it’s a journey of 1,000 conversations.
Our Yellowknife schools have some tremendous attributes and lead the territories in attendance and graduation rates. That is a source of great pride.
However, 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 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.
As a result of ERI the department is undertaking a review of the IS funding model to better align funding with the needs of NWT educators and students. I genuinely believe this exercise will surface answers that will help schools in Yellowknife and right across the NWT.
The ERI recommendations cannot be implemented in the short term. Inclusive schooling is a journey and will never be a destination (author unknown), primarily because of the variables of dealing with individual learning.
Inclusion creates 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. There is no short term fix for the demands of Inclusive Schooling.
Our education system in the north is strong and vibrant and as I mentioned ER is moving in the right direction. However education cannot be solely responsible for the success of our students. Many of our students in the communities and right here in Yellowknife come to school with problems much bigger than they are–social, economic and addiction problems that they or their families are experiencing.
What is needed is wrap around health services so that teachers and parents are not alone – with wrap around health services including health, social services, personal counselling, addiction counselling etc. available to the schools we can begin provide real help for our students who need these problems solved before they are ready to learn.
In the short and medium term I will encourage other Departments such as Health and Justice to expand their partnership with education.
For my entire time as MLA and during this campaign I continue to have education as one of my top priorities. Along with the economy, education must be at the forefront of the 18th Legislative Assembly. The medium and long term forecast is much brighter and with Education’s ERI initiative there is a developed framework for the issue of Inclusive Schooling.
We need to work together to find an effective, or at least, more effective solution. We have to genuinely define what will really make a difference for educators and inclusive students”¦and then look for funding for a specific improvement(s).
2. Do you believe Junior Kindergarten should be funded in YK, the same as within the communities, and are you prepared to support and push for immediate implementation?
It cannot be disputed that early childhood education is key and junior kindergarten is the vehicle by which we can reach and nurture those children who for many reasons do not live in a rich stimulating environment. I support junior kindergarten and will push for implementation.