COLUMN: Three priorities for School District 8 in 2021

SD8 superintendent Christine Perkins writes about the upcoming year

by Christine Perkins

School District 8 superintendent

As we close out 2020, I want to wish you all good health and encourage you to be kind to yourselves over the holiday season.

This has been a year none of us want to repeat. We recognize that many of you, and your families, have been through recent personal and medical struggles. Personally, I have lost a family member to post-traumatic stress disorder and depression and had another diagnosed with early onset dementia and was told he could no longer drive. The latter restriction dramatically changes his life, and sense of purpose after over 60 years of being of service to others.

In addition, as a global family, we are all suffering with the inconveniences, loneliness, and restrictions of a global pandemic. However, there is hope, as the recent roll-out of a vaccine promises. Most of you know that I am an optimistic person 99 per cent of the time and strongly believe that if we lead with love there is always a bright future.

Speaking of a bright future, if you have time, I have three critical areas, offering hope, that I wish to close the year out with: our need to be informed about Canadian Black history, the fact we all need to respond to the Truth and Reconciliation Calls to Action, and that we all need to remember to honour the Rights of a Child.

In Canada, we can no longer turn away from the calls for social justice in the Black Lives Matter movement. School District 8 – Kootenay Lake Board of Education trustees and staff have been encouraged to read The Skin We’re In. In October we co-hosted author and activist, Desmond Cole, for a regional professional development day of learning in order to help educate our community, specifically on issues relevant to Canadian black lives. In addition, as we began four years ago, we continue to celebrate Black History month in February and educate our students with Montrealer Akilah Newton’s award-winning book, Big Dreamers: The Canadian Black History Activity Book for Kids Volumes 1. All our schools will receive Volume 2 this year – targeted at our intermediate students. By being better informed, letter-writing, donating funds, and volunteering for supportive causes, we can help move our learning of the experiences of our Canadian Black, Indigenous, and People of Colour (BIPOC) forward. Most of all, we can open our own eyes, look at our own biases and try to do better.

And speaking of doing better, School District 8 promises to do better regarding all things Indigenous relating to our First Nations, Metis, and Inuit students. We continue to be informed by the Declaration of the Rights of Indigenous Peoples Act (BC); The United Nations Declaration of the Rights of Indigenous People; the Truth and Reconciliation Commission (TRC) Calls to Action; the BC Tripartite Education Agreement (BCTEA); the Metis Nation Relationship Accord ll; and the Office of the Auditor General of BC’s Report on Indigenous Education.

At School District 8, we acknowledge that systemic racism has existed in our educational institutions for far too long, and we want to move forward to forge positive change and improve outcomes for all our Indigenous children. Our targeted funding is 100 per cent aimed at improving outcomes for Indigenous students. In fact, it is used for language and cultural programs, and for staffing to support services that are in addition to the regular education program provided to non-graduated, school-aged, self-identified Indigenous students. We also wish to continue our Local Education Agreement (LEA) with Lower Kootenay Band and look forward to engaging in shared decision-making about how targeted funding is spent with our new Indigenous Education Council (IEC), as requested by both FNESC and the Ministry of Education. We are all learning, and we will continue to learn in hopes of a better future.

Thirdly, I would like to close by reminding you all of the United Nations Convention on the Rights of a Child https://www.unicef.org/media/60981/file/convention-rights-child-text-child-friendly-version.pdf, in particular, Number 2, 28, and 29.

Number 2 – All children have all these rights, no matter who they are, where they live, what language they speak, what their religion is, what they think, what they look like, if they are a boy or girl, if they have a disability, if they are rich or poor, and no matter who their parents or families are or what their parents or families believe or do. No child should be treated unfairly for any reason.

Number 28 – Every child has the right to an education. Primary education should be free. Secondary and higher education should be available to every child. Children should be encouraged to go to school to the highest level possible. Discipline in schools should respect children’s rights and never use violence.

Number 29 – Children’s education should help them fully develop their personalities, talents and abilities. It should teach them to understand their own rights, and to respect other people’s rights, cultures and differences. It should help them to live peacefully and protect the environment.

May your children be safe, nourished, and warm this season. May you enjoy your time together and find nothing but joy in their unique personalities. Lastly, may you all find love, peace, kindness, and good health.

Thank you to all who have supported our children this year.

We look forward to welcoming you back to school in 2021.

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