Cariboo heart in Victoria

Cariboo-Chilcotin residents can take pride that the Ministry of Education’s current superintendent of aboriginal achievement is home grown.

As work continues to improve graduation rates for First Nations students in School District 27 Cariboo-Chilcotin residents can take pride and some solace in the fact that the Ministry of Education’s current superintendent of aboriginal achievement is home grown.

“As work is underway to transform the education system, there is a strong focus on improving Aboriginal student achievement and at the same time, looking for ways to have all of our students better understand Aboriginal cultures and history,” DeDe DeRose said in the recent provincial report on Aboriginal achievement.

DeRose was born and raised in the Cariboo-Chilcotin and spent the beginning of her career as a teacher in this district, says SD 27 Superintendent of Schools Mark Thiessen.

“She then moved on to the Ministry of Education for a few years before landing in the Kamloops School District as a principal,” Thiessen says. “She was appointed Superintendent of Aboriginal Achievement for the Ministry of Education in 2012.”

The report contained a few quick facts about Aboriginal students and ministry spending to improve success rates for aboriginal people.

• Aboriginal student enrolment in B.C. public schools in 2012-13 was 61,364 students, or 10.9 per cent of the total K-12 student population.

School District 27 has 1,334 First Nations students out of a total of 4,829 students, Thiessen reports.

“This works out to 27.6 per cent of our total enrolment,” Thiessen says.

• There were 3,319 Aboriginal students who graduated with a Dogwood in 2012/13, an increase of 72 per cent since 2002/03.

Thiessen says  he doesn’t have the total numbers but he does have the percentages.  In 2011/2012, SD 27’s six-year grad rate for First Nations students was 43 per cent  In 2012/2013, our six year grad rate for First Nations students was 44 per cent.

• In 2012-13, approximately $63 million ($1,160 per student) was provided to districts for students who self-identify as being of Aboriginal ancestry. This funding is in addition to per pupil funding provided to school districts, the report says.

“We want every Aboriginal student to achieve their best, and we have to ensure more of them graduate,” says Minister of Education Peter Fassbender. “As we work towards this goal, our partnerships with stakeholders and school districts will help us work collaboratively with Aboriginal communities and in schools to promote new learning opportunities and address challenges.”

Thiessen adds: “The school district receives other funding for our small schools and for special projects, but those funds are not part of our First Nations targeted funding.”