PORT McNEILL—With School District 85 Board trustees, staff, and teachers looking on Monday, board chair Leightan Wishart and North Island College administrator Tony Bellavia signed an historic Memorandum of Understanding that will lead to dual-credit courses for North Island secondary school students.
“It’s a pleasure to be at this point tonight,” SD85 Superintendent Scott Benwell announced during the board’s monthly meeting Oct. 20 at North Island Secondary School. “This represents a significant amount of work that’s gone on over a number of years, with significant consultation between North Island College and our schools.”
The dual credit course agreement dates back to discussions that began prior to the establishment in 2012 of SD85’s Connections program. That program, in partnership with the Regional District of Mount Waddington, provides for student visits to worksites and business across the North Island.
Connections led to the creation last year of Field Studies 12, an actual course curriculum in which students can acquire class credit for time spent working with partner businesses outside the school walls.
Transitions, the newest branch of the Connections program, introduces access to North Island College credits to students in Grades 11-12 at NISS, Port Hardy Secondary School and Eke Me-Xi School.
“We’re working on bridging what’s happening in the community with what happens in the schools,” said Jay Dixon, NISS principal and original coordinator of the Connections program. “We’re engaging our students outside the brick and mortar of the school and helping them decide where they’re going and how they get there.”
Dixon was joined by current Connections program coordinator Kathleen McArthur and NISS Field Studies instructor Greg Muirhead in a presentation to the board and guests Monday.
“I want to extend my thanks to Scott and to Jay, and Greg also, on behalf of North Island College,” Bellavia said before putting his signature to the document. “We’re very excited about this MOU; it’s about formalizing the work we’ve been doing and continuing on with it.”
Bellavia was joined by Gregory Batt, associate regional director at NIC’s Mount Waddington Campus.
“For us, it’s just great to be able to be here with the students, with a practical program that’s focussed on employment in the region,” said Batt.
Interest in the Connections programs, among both students and local businesses, has exploded in its short, two-plus year existence, Dixon said. In the past school year, more than 200 students from the three secondary schools took part in Connections work site visits and more than 50 were enrolled in Field Studies.
Already, the first graduating class of participants has produced three students in apprenticeship programs and several more placed in jobs in the local economy, he added.
Port Hardy-area trustees Wishart, Jeff Field and Danita Schmidt were officially acclaimed Monday to return for four-year terms to the board, Wishart announced.
The three were the only candidates to declare for the three available spots representing Area 1, or the “North” zone.