The BC Association of Aboriginal Friendship Centres (BCAAFC) is the latest to express their alarm with administrative staffing changes made by Coast Mountains School District 82.
A letter addressed to Minister of Education Rob Fleming says the provincial association is “deeply concerned for the impacts such changes would have on communities, particularly our urban Indigenous children and their families.”
“[Kermode Friendship Society (KFS)] has brought to light that the families and children that are being most impacted by these administrative staffing changes in the school district have not been provided any explanation for the changes,” the letter reads.
“The families and children are dismayed by these changes because the progressive work being done, the positive changes, the increased recognition and action on ensuring Indigenous children and ￼their families can access mainstream services without being negatively stereotyped, is frankly rare in the public school system in BC.”
This follows a previous letter sent by KFS in opposition to the administrative changes announced by the board and superintendent on April 25.
In a news release, CMSD 82 said current Skeena Middle School principal Phillip Barron and vice-principal Cory Killoran would be leaving their administrative positions for teaching positions this fall, along with Suwillaawks principal Pam Kawinsky.
KFS is questioning whether this move without their input violates their Aboriginal Education Enhancement Agreement (AEA) between the school district, Gitxsan Nation, Haisla Nation, Kitselas Nation, Kitsumkalum Nation and Kermode.
Kawinsky has been a principal at Suwilaawks since 2011 and has a masters degree in education, specializing in special education and early childhood. Suwilaawks specifically has an 82 per cent Indigenous student population with 14 per cent of students identified as having special needs.
“It has been so deeply refreshing that some education leaders were getting it right within an education system historically known to take the Indigenous-specific education funds, then stereotype Indigenous learners as stupid and write them off in their early years,” the BCAAF letter reads. “Why therefore, we all can’t help but wonder, are these successful leaders being moved out of their roles?”
No transparent explanation has been provided by the district to outline how this decision was made, why these decisions were made, or how these decisions are in the best interests of students.
Superintendent Katherine McIntosh wrote in an email to the Terrace Standard last month that the exact reason for the change “requires the confidentiality and privacy be respected of all staff involved or impacted,” however, “The Board of Education and School District have full confidence that the recent local appointees to leadership positions will bring a wealth of knowledge with them that will be a significant benefit to the schools they are appointed to.”
But BCAAFC isn’t convinced, and still has many remaining questions. Moving these successful administrators out of their roles is “to tell our Indigenous children and families that their success is not important to the school district.”
“Why have these administrators been moved without any consultation as per the Aboriginal Education Enhanced Agreements?” the letter reads.
The BCAAFC letter asks the minister to take action on the issues brought forward by the Kermode Friendship Society on behalf of the Indigenous families and children.
The Terrace Standard has reached out to the Ministry of Education and SD82 for comment.