With the help of the Strategic Action Plan, we took major steps towards implementing these 29 Key Initiatives in 2016-2017. While progress was made across the board, I would like to recognize some of the main achievements, changes, and investments that brought us closer to our goals.
“I see the use of virtual reality in our classrooms as a positive resource for teaching Cree language. Once you start with the first episode, you don’t want to stop. That’s how exciting it is! You don’t even realize you are learning Cree language.”
Every day, teachers and administrators throughout the Cree School Board worked to improve student engagement and educational success. Consultants, Special Education staff, Cree culture experts, and community partnerships strengthened the already impressive work being done within our schools.
I would first like to draw attention to our Guaranteed and Viable Curriculum (GVC). Since 2011, the GVC has guided Cree School Board teachers with a curriculum that honours the languages of Cree, English, and French while ensuring that students learn the essential information related to reading, writing, speaking, listening and media production. In 2016-2017, our Instructional Services Department regularly visited all schools to support teachers, advise on resources, and teach proven second language strategies. The GVC was also expanded to elementary science in French and English sectors. Through these efforts, teachers were able to teach science concepts through Cree culture. Students enjoyed lessons such as comparison of the traditional moss diapers to the modern-day disposables.
I am also pleased to announce we are now using virtual reality technology to aid in the teaching of Cree language in Oujé-Bougoumou and Chisasibi. Through the new interactive program, Niwîchewâka, elementary level students embark on interactive learning activities by following Niipiish, a Cree girl with her English-speaking dog, Achimush, as they complete various word and spelling activities together. In association with Montreal video game development studio Minority Media, the School Board’s Cree Programs department oversaw the development of the game and ensured proper vocabulary, dialects, and GVC alignment. I truly believe that engaging games like this prepare our students today by developing their abilities, talents, gifts, qualities and competencies so they can become the successful contributors of tomorrow.
Improving literacy is also a key goal under the Educational Success strategic theme. Many schools reported that Response to Intervention (RTI) training has helped them identify and manage individual and group challenges to improve overall learning. To learn more about RTI, click here.
Promotes accountability and empowers students by providing them with opportunities to discover, build, and share their personal and collective voices through the arts.
We are excited about the potential these programs have to motivate and engage our youth. We are committed to not only helping them graduate secondary school with proper skills and knowledge but also offering them educational support even after graduation. This is why we offer a wide variety of post-secondary student services. The full report from Post-Secondary Student Services for the 2016-2017 year can be found here.
Through Sabtuan Adult Education Services, the Cree School Board provides training and education to members of the Cree Nation who wish to receive vocational training or achieve a secondary school equivalency. In November 2016, we announced that over $32 million would be invested in a new Adult Education facility as well as forty new housing units for school board employees. Former Grand Chief Dr. Matthew Coon Come welcomed the announcement and said, “…one has to think of the future, of preparing the young people, giving them the tools . . . to be ready for the future that is coming.” One of our strong commitments, solidified in our second Strategic Theme, is to involve Cree communities as much as possible in developments that impact them. The Mistissini Chief and Council have been involved in helping decide on program offerings, which will be based on the community’s training needs from the administration, technology, mining, construction, and health fields.
“… education is an important component for community development. This investment will certainly allow easier access to more vocational programs that will assist our members in the advancement and development of their skills. Our leadership will continuously work with the Cree School Board to deliver quality education and services to our people’’.
Human Resources put forth major efforts throughout the year to better understand why employees work for the Cree School Board and why they stay. Through consulting various groups on this topic, they were able to come up with a compelling Employee Value Proposition (EVP). This will inform future job fair advertising and employee retention initiatives, making it a key component in our work towards the Strategic Theme of “Qualified, Competent, and Engaged Staff.” To learn more about this and other initiatives related to this Strategic Theme, click here.
Create opportunities for meaningful dialogue and involvement with the community.
In 2016-2017, we continued to integrate community involvement into our operations. Our schools saw many benefits from increased collaboration with their respective communities, including improved attendance and opportunities to learn traditional skills.
The Regional General Assembly provided an opportunity for members of the Cree Nation to learn more about the 2016-2021 Strategic Action Plan. Stakeholders were able to listen to presentations from department directors. Participants from within and outside of the School Board responded to the Strategic Themes and Key Initiatives, adding their questions and experiences to refine our understanding. This meaningful dialogue resulted in 15 Calls-to-Action for the Youth, Adult, and Post-Secondary sectors. Meetings like this allow us all to share our goals, strategies, and concerns so we can move forward together.
Communication was seen as a central tenet of Student, Parent, and Community Engagement (SAP Theme 2) and Organizational Behaviour and Effectiveness (SAP Theme 4). We saw the need to increase our efforts in this area and added a Director of Communications and Community Relations to our team in August 2016. The department has since developed a board-wide strategy, a process which began with gathering knowledge, analyzing the organizational and community contexts, and establishing a strategic foundation from which priority areas and related activities have since been identified. The department is working towards improving stakeholder relationships by communicating information on our educational objectives.
We are grateful to the Cree communities who have welcomed discussions, offered feedback, and supported the cause of Cree education. Community partnerships were an integral part of implementing our Key Initiatives throughout 2016-2017, and we look forward to your support as we continue to work towards the goals laid out in our plan.