Look­ing ahead

Pub­lic school board faces year of po­ten­tial cuts with PCs in power: direc­tor says

Kenora Daily Miner and News - - LOCAL NEWS - RYAN STELTER Sean Mon­teith, direc­tor of ed­u­ca­tion for the Kee­watin-Pa­tri­cia District School Board. rstel­[email protected]­media.com

2019 will be a year of fi­nan­cial pru­dence and re­straint for the Kee­watin-Pa­tri­cia District School Board.

Direc­tor of ed­u­ca­tion Sean Mon­teith said with the new PC govern­ment in charge at Queen’s Park peo­ple should not be sur­prised to ed­u­ca­tion fund­ing cuts.

Both school boards in Kenora have al­ready seen the ef­fects of cuts when the On­tario PCs dropped a $25 mil­lion cut to spe­cial pro­grams across the province on Dec. 14.

“If you are sur­prised that this govern­ment is go­ing to be mak­ing cuts then you haven’t been read­ing the tea leaves very well for the last eight to 10 months,” Mon­teith said.

Mon­teith as­sured the im­pact of the spe­cial fund­ing cuts will be min­i­mal for the KPDSB. How­ever, cuts may come when it comes to labour, and Mon­teith fore­sees po­ten­tial road blocks be­tween the labour union and provin­cial bar­gain­ing agents.

“You can­not talk fi­nan­cial re­straint with­out talk­ing labour costs,” he said. “One of my wishes for 2019 would be that we are able to get through the next year with­out any kind of im­ped­i­ments or in­ter­rup­tions to pro­vid­ing work and sup­port for kids be­cause adults are hav­ing a hard time get­ting along.”

Provin­cial fund­ing will not af­fect the com­ple­tion of the new school in Sioux Look­out, Mon­teith con­firmed the project will be done by the spring of this year. In 2019, Beaver Brae Se­condary School in Kenora is set to re­ceive $6 mil­lion in ren­o­va­tions to the tech wing, park­ing lot and field.

Mu­nic­i­pal elec­tions across On­tario in Oc­to­ber of last year saw the elec­tion of a new school board with fa­mil­iar names leav­ing and new ones ar­riv­ing.

“With new faces, come new ideas so we’re look­ing for­ward to that,” Mon­teith said. “We’ve had a good tran­si­tion into a new board so I think that work will con­tinue.”

Mon­teith com­mented on the suc­cesses of 2018 pointint out school suc­cesses with EQAO re­sults and ris­ing grad­u­a­tion rates in the district.

“North­ern On­tario is his­tor­i­cally low or lower in grad­u­a­tion re­sults in terms of per­cent­age or num­ber of kids that grad­u­ate,” he said. “That’s even more con­cern­ing when you look at Indige­nous kids.”

The Four Di­rec­tions pro­gram at Dry­den High School has been a rea­son for the in­crease in Indige­nous stu­dent grad­u­a­tion and that pro­gram saw its first crop of grad­u­ates in 2018. Beaver Brae in Kenora will have its first group of grads in 2019.

“That’ll be a big story at Beaver Brae this year,” Mon­teith said.

The Four Di­rec­tions pro­gram has been rec­og­nized and sim­i­lar pro­grams around the province are be­ing funded by the On­tario govern­ment. KPDSB was the first board in the province to in­tro­duce such a pro­gram.

“We paid for it, and now it’s work­ing,” Mon­teith said.

Mon­teith said the KPDSB can be looked at as agents of rec­on­cil­i­a­tion and ac­tion. Mon­teith said the North­west has a unique and com­pelling his­tory of Indige­nous peo­ple and the re­la­tion­ships be­tween Indige­nous and non-Indige­nous peo­ple.

“We have adopted a rec­on­cil­ia­tory mes­sage, we’re try­ing to pro­vide kids the op­por­tu­nity to grad­u­ate and I think rec­on­cil­i­a­tion is go­ing to hap­pen here,” he said. “Our board has made it a mantra and you have to. This is a com­mu­nity that has not done well, and the board sees it­self as a leader in this area and Kenora should see it­self as a leader in that area too.”


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