EDMONTON – EDUCATION – “We are committed to protecting and improving education in Northland School Division. 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,” says Alberta David Eggen, Minister of Education.
Alberta has a new bill before the Legislature. If the bill is passed, a governance structure would be introduced for Northland School Division that would support the education needs of First Nations and Métis students in the area.
The bill comes as a result of an extensive review, discussions and engagement with community members on the future of education in the division.
Specifically, the new Northland School Division Act would:
- Introduce a governance structure with between seven and eleven wards, each with an elected trustee.
- Replace the existing local school board committees with school councils that have similar roles and responsibilities as other school councils in Alberta.
- Establish a formal engagement process that strengthens community voice, including the involvement of Elders, youth, First Nations, Métis and all other communities to whom the division provides education services.
The government will also be working with the board to find ways to improve teacher retention, transportation service and other services that support student learning.
“Community voice is so important to the success of our children. 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,” states Rita Marten, director of education for the Athabasca Tribal Council and an Elder with the Mikisew Cree First Nation.
“Since I took on the role of official trustee in July, I’ve had the opportunity to get out to communities across the division to meet with staff and community members and hear their views. Community engagement is a key component to improving attendance and education outcomes and I’m committed to continuing to work collaboratively to help effectively transitioning the division to an elected board,” comments Lois Byers, official trustee, Northland School Division.
Overview of Northland School Division
- Northland School Division serves approximately 2,700 students, spread across 23 schools and two outreach schools, located largely in remote communities in northern Alberta.
- More than 95 per cent of the student population is First Nations or Métis.
- To learn more about the division, visit nsd61.ca.
- In 1965, the Alberta legislature passed and proclaimed the first Northland School Division Act. It has been amended several times.
- In January 2010, the former minister of education dissolved Northland’s board of trustees due to ongoing issues with student achievement and board governance.
- An official trustee was appointed at that time and a trustee remains in place.
- Currently, there are 23 Local School Board Committees (LSBCs) that represent all schools within Northland School Division.
- Each LSBC has between three and five members. The size of the committee is based on the size of the school’s student population and is legislated by the current Northland School Division Act.
- Each LSBC elects a chair. Before the school board was dissolved in 2010, the chair would sit on the corporate board as a trustee.
- A series of community engagements occurred throughout 2015 to 2017 with community stakeholders in Northland to discuss governance and potential amendments to the Northland School Division Act.
- Under the new Northland School Division Act, the LSBCs would be replaced by school councils.
- The School Act and the School Councils Regulation would apply to these school councils.