Celebrating 40 years of the Cree School Board

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Attendees at the Regional General Assembly of the Cree School Board (CSB) in Eastmain June 5-6 marked the board’s 40th anniversary with a refreshed sense of purpose and direction.

While there was some reminiscing of the CSB’s early years, this anniversary’s focus was on the last decade because it was during this time that the CSB underwent a great deal of change, growth and restructuring. This was done to ensure that Cree children were being educated on par with rest of the province and developing their reading skills at an earlier age so they wouldn’t face the difficulties previous generations had.

Indeed, CSB Chairperson Kathleen Wootton said the last decade deserved its own celebration. In 2008, an educational review of the CSB, titled “Communication, Accountability and Follow-up for School Improvement” (CAFSI), was released. Commissioned by the CSB and written by two consulting agencies, this independent report revealed the shortcomings of the school board. This prompted the CSB to achieve better results.

“That is when the improvement process began,” explained Wootton. “We looked at everything, and started collecting more data to see where our students were and what our graduation rates were. We made sure to collect the right information to help us target weak areas so we could track them, and work on improving them.”

In the late 1990s, prior to the report, there were students who would graduate from CSB schools but were unable to continue at the post-secondary level because they did not possess the proper language skills. For the past 10 years the CSB has been working on solving this problem, which the CAFSI report had highlighted.

The CAFSI report also prompted the CSB to reassess its graduation rate as there were years when some communities had no graduating students who had completed five consecutive years of high school. Since then several new programs have been implemented, including the Success for All program, which now has Cree students reading at the same level as students throughout the province. Plus, several summer reading camps have been set up to prevent learning loss over the summer break.

“At the time the CAFSI report was released, our graduation rate was around seven or eight percent. We are hoping that with these changes there will be a boom of graduates. Last year, we were up at 25 percent. When we do our statistics we only count the students who graduated after five consecutive years of education, and not those who did it in six or seven years,” explained Wootton.

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