SD 58 closing in on new education agreement with Nooaitch, Coldwater bands

By on November 20, 2017
A group of students from Central Elementary opens the School District 58 and First Nations Education Council Welcome Dinner at Merritt Secondary School in 2013. Michael Potestio/Herald

School District 58 is working towards a local education agreement (LEA) with the Nooaitch and Coldwater bands.

“We are through to some final discussions with the communities of Nooaitch and Coldwater and we’ll be looking at finalizing the document and then getting it signed off soon after that,” SD 58 superintendent Steve McNiven told school board trustees at a meeting held Nov. 8.

The agreement is intended to co-incide with the expiration of the two LEAs the district has with the larger Lower and Upper Nicola bands in an effort to eventually bring all five bands together under a single agreement.

“There’s still an appetite to have one agreement for all five [area] bands in the future,” McNiven told the Herald. “We want to leave it as a possibility.”

School District 58 superintendent Steve McNiven. (Herald files).

McNiven said having a single LEA encompassing all the bands would benefit students.

“There’s a lot of common needs between the communities. There are some differences that need to be recognized, but I think it would be effective for everybody,” said McNiven.

Coldwater Band Chief Lee Spahan told the Herald the band is waiting to hear back from the school disitrct having submitted recommended changes to the agreement about a month ago.

“Now we’re just waiting on them,” Spahan said.

McNiven said he estimates the Coldwater-Nooaitch agreement to be complete well before the end of the year.

“We are through our conversations and have come to an agreement on the terms of the document, and now it  just really comes down to formatting that, putting a draft out and signing it,” said McNiven.

Spahan said they are also waiting to hear back from the Nooaitch Band before proceeding.

Nooaitch Band Chief Marcel Shackelly did not immediately respond to the Herald’s request for comment.

McNiven said said this LEA has some teeth to it.

“The district is reviewing student success data for our First Nations on-reserve students on a regular basis — quarterly — and then putting plans in place to address the needs of those students when necessary,” said McNiven.

Spahan said the agreement will also address issues of student safety, getting caught up on schoolwork and ensuring First Nations language and culture are taught at the elementary school level.

“The younger the student is the faster they pick it up,” said Spahan.

In 2016, McNiven told the Herald SD 58 planned to have an LEA signed between Coldwater, Nooaitch and the Shackan Band that year, but Shackan has since dropped out.

Shackan hoping for five-band deal

Shackan Chief Percy Joe told the Herald the band would prefer having their next LEA consist of all five area bands.

“What we were looking at is just extend our [current] local education agreement to expire the same time theirs all expire, so we can all work on it at the five-band level,” said Joe.

The school district is currently trying to figure out a separate LEA with the Shackan Band.

said McNiven.

“That is one we will continue to work on,” he said.

Coldwater Chief Lee Spahan said he likes the idea of signing a single LEA with the other four bands in the near future.

“We worked together in the past and we’re trying to make a pathway, so that way we get back to working together again in doing just one agreement,” said Spahan.

A local education agreement gives both the band and school district the ability to plan, implement and monitor educational services for band member students, as well as hold each organization accountable for attaining certain goals.

Upper Nicola Band singed a five-year LEA in September of 2015 and the Lower Nicola Band signed a five-year agreement in January of 2016.

In order for the school district to secure federal funding for on-reserve students, it must develop a LEA with the local bands on how they’ll implement service.

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