PORT McNEILL—The monthly meeting of the Board of Trustees of School District 85 was treated to an unusual and powerful presentation when teacher Teresa Wadhams shared her experiences at the Truth and Reconciliation Canada West event, held in Vancouver in late September.
Wadhams accompanied her husband of 19 years, a former residential school student, to the day of activities, held at Vancouver Pacific Coliseum and Agrodome.
Wadhams said the experience of attending residential school was so painful and so private for her husband that she did not learn of it until 14 or 15 years into their marriage.
And she learned even more when he joined a healing story circle at the event.
“I knew some of my husband’s story, but it was horrific,” she said.
Wadhams kept trustees rapt during her presentation at the Nov. 18 meeting, held at North Island Secondary School, by describing conditions experienced by both her husband and her father, who also was sent to residential school.
Wadhams also pointed out how the lingering effects of the experience continue to impact her interactions with survivors today.
“Parents will come and talk to me about their children’s learning, but they won’t come into the school,” she said.
Superintendent Scott Benwell and board chair Leightan Wishart both thanked Wadhams for her presentation, and stressed the School District today is fully committed to an inclusive education model, in partnership with First Nations communities.
“This was a real eye-opener in things I didn’t know about,” Wadhams said. “I think it’s going to take many years to overcome.”
A redesigned curriculum for kindergarten through Grade 9 students in English, math, science and social studies has been released in draft form, the School District 85 Board of Trustees learned during its monthly meeting last week at North Island Secondary School.
The Ministry of Education announced the release of the draft on a new website, and welcomed feedback from the educational community while thanking local districts for “leading these transformation efforts.”
The draft redesigned curricula can be seen at www.curriculum.gov.bc.ca.
Health authority pact
The board approved an affiliation agreement template with Island Health that will clarify the responsibilities and restrictions upon students who access the health authority’s facilities through SD85’s Connections program or other cooperative work-study ventures.
“This agreement will give our students in field studies a chance to work in the health field,” treasurer John Martin said. “Obviously there are privacy concerns around work in health facilities, and this ensures a level of commitment.
“Essentially, they want to make sure (students) behave. If they don’t, they go back to school.”
While both student enrolment and teacher staffing in SD85 have suffered a marked decrease over the past 12 years, pupil-teacher ratios in the classroom hit a historic low last year, the District informed the board.
Enrolment in the 2012-13 school year was 1,388 pupils, who were served by a total staffing of 106.75 teachers for a 13:1 pupil/teacher ratio. That compares to the 2001-02 figures of 2,490 students and 162 staff, which resulted in a ratio of 15.37:1.
In his remarks to the board, VINTA president Fred Robertson cautioned trustees to be wary of small sample sizes, and to take into consideration the makeup of the classes when interpreting the pupil/teacher ratio figures.
The preliminary budget for the current school year shows a slight increase in the ratio, to 13.33:1, with five fewer students and three fewer staff from the 2012-13 figures.