Thirty-three per cent of the school district’s students are aboriginal, but only four per cent of the employees are aboriginal, Superintendent of Schools Kathy Bedard told school trustees during their regular meeting Feb. 14.
“There are many, many reasons why there should be aboriginal employees in the district,” said Bedard. “They are role models and the people of B.C. need to get a better understanding of this important group in our society.”
Seeking the board’s direction on how to proceed with Letter of Understanding No. 6 that is part of the collective agreement between the board and B.C. Teachers’ Federation the superintendent said that the letter, “…outlines the process that the board needs to follow should they decide to apply for exemption from the BC Human Rights Tribunal so we can put on our job advertisements, our postings, that we support and fund equity with respect to having aboriginal employees in our district either for teachers only or for teachers, support staff, and administrators district wide. The reason is that we have so many aboriginal students in the district and we do not have a representative group of aboriginal employees.”
The superintendent asked the board if she should initiate discussion with only the Vancouver Island North Teacher’s Association or if she should also begin discussions with CUPE local 2045 and the North Island Administrators Association (NIAA).
Trustee Werner Manke would like to see the superintendent include all three employee groups.
“This is going to be a long road and this may slow it down more, but I find it difficult to separate out one group. I’d really like to see us do all the groups,” said Manke.
Trustee Ann Hory said she supported Manke’s suggestion saying she didn’t want the board’s approach to be in “dribs and drabs.”
Chair Leightan Wishart in response to a question from Trustee Eric Hunter said that if they apply for the special program with the B.C. Human Rights Tribunal then they would have to reapply in five years, however he had not heard of any of those who reapplied being turned down.
Jeff Field, trustee for Port Hardy said, “I would like to see the superintendent initiate discussions with all our employee groups. … As the superintendent says, the employee groups have to agree to this process so we will take if from there once we know what all our employee groups would like.”
A motion instructing the superintendent to initiate discussions with all three employee groups regarding application to the tribunal to obtain approval for a special program that would serve to attract and retain Aboriginal teachers passed unanimously.
Wishart, hearing that the superintendent would start discussions right away remarked, “Good. The sooner the better.”