Wolf Creek Public Schools (WCPS) board of trustees has decided at their Tuesday, April 21 meeting to officially delay allowing an appointed First Nations trustee to sit on the board.
The matter first came to a head late last year after WCPS received word from the Alberta government regarding the wish of the Nipisihkopahk Education Authority, Samson Cree Nation.
WCPS was contacted directly for the first time by the authority via a letter received April 15, 2015. “We finally have a letter directed at Wolf Creek school division, so now we have to do something,” said board chair Trudy Bratland.
In previous meetings, trustee Bob Huff voiced his concern over adding an additional, appointed member to the board because of the cost implications, which he said could reach $30,000 annually.
“Because of the political state of affairs, I think we should delay. It’s a cost item,” said Huff.
With the budgeting challenges schools divisions are facing, Huff believes the money that would go to the trustee position should be used to help teachers “on the frontline.”
The letter sent to WCPS states Nipisihkopahk Education Authority is seeking an appointed trustee to secure “appropriate school board representation.”
It was hoped a trustee would be in place for the upcoming school year.
“I’m not sure that will happen,” said Bratland.
WCPS has placed a focus on addressing First Nations education needs with the Wisdom and Guidance Committee, primarily consisting of First Nations members.
FNMI student success co-ordinator Shelagh Hagemann heads the committee and focuses on creating successful transitions for FNMI students between grades and schools.
“We already have this Wisdom and Guidance Committee in place. We’re working toward trying to make a difference,” said trustee Donna Peterson.
“We do have strategies in place to work with our First Nations students,” said Bratland.
Trustee Lorrie Jess says if an appointed First Nations member is placed on the board, the public is going to expect Dutch, Hutterite and German-specific trustees — to name a few examples — to have representation opportunities.
The board has directed superintendent Larry Jacobs to respond to the Nipisihkopahk Education Authority. Bratland does not think the issue will re-appear before the board until the upcoming election is over and the budget and financial chaos school boards are facing has settled.
Bratland says the board wants the time to make a good decision