Alberta is launching a plan to rescue a sprawling far-flung northern school division plagued by low graduation rates, absenteeism, and high teacher turnover.
Education Minister David Eggen introduced a bill in the legislature to change the governance plan of the Northland School Division and bring order to what officials say had become a confusing overlap of responsibilities.
“We are committed to protecting and improving education in Northland School Division,” Eggen said in a statement on Tuesday. “We are taking the step of re-establishing an elected board of trustees during municipal elections this fall to make sure the communities served by Northland are able to make decisions democratically to support student success.”
The Northland Division makes up much of northern Alberta overseeing 23 schools and 2,700 students, most of whom are indigenous.
The division’s former 23-member board, made up of locally-elected representatives, was fired by the former Progressive Conservative government more than seven years ago.
Watch below: On Oct. 27, 2015, Fletcher Kent filed this report after Alberta’s then-education minister said it’s time residents of the Northland School Division once again elect its school board.
The division has been run by a government-appointed trustee ever since, but Eggen’s bill will have it governed by a board of no more than 11 elected representatives.
The bill also sets up a committee of First Nations representatives to help trustees make decisions that reflect the region’s culture and diversity.
“Community voice is so important to the success of our children,” Rita Marten, director of education for the Athabasca Tribal Council and an Elder with the Mikisew Cree First Nation, said in a statement. “Expanding the advisory body to a school council model will ensure all First Nations and community members in Northland School Division have a voice in supporting student learning, while having the flexibility to ensure the unique needs of their community are considered.”
-With files from Phil Heidenreich