The inaugural meeting of the School District 70 Pacific Rim board of education involved a blend of tradition and formality.
The formal proceedings at the Best Western Plus Barclay Hotel in Port Alberni on Tuesday, Nov 8 were interwoven with Tseshaht First Nation cultural protocol throughout the night.
Representatives from Hupacasath First Nation and Tseshaht First Nation both opened the meeting on Tuesday evening with welcomes to their territory. Lisa Watts from Tseshaht First Nation then led a traditional brushing ceremony, brushing each of the new board members with cedar boughs. Ed Ross, elected councillor for Tseshaht First Nation, explained to the crowd that a brushing ceremony is usually a very private event, but Tseshaht agreed to perform the ceremony at the board meeting for educational purposes.
“It was very respectful the way the school district came knocking at our door,” said Ross.
After protocol was followed, each of the new board members took their oaths of office. Trustees Pam Craig, Larry Ransom and Chris Washington are returning to the board, joined by new trustees Cherilyn Bray, Janis Joseph, Helen Zanette and Cynthia Orr on the West Coast. Craig was re-elected as board chair by acclamation, while Joseph was elected as vice-chair.
The new board ended its meeting by introducing several new motions related to reconciliation, directing superintendent Tim Davie to develop a district framework for truth and reconciliation and to research and make recommendations for co-governance with local First Nations. The board also directed Davie to establish an elders council and to develop an enhancement agreement with partners like the Port Alberni Friendship Centre, Alberni Clayoquot Métis Society and the Ministry of Education and Child Care.
Davie noted that the Indigenous high school completion rate in SD70 has increased over the last few years, from 56 percent in 2016-2017 to 75 percent in the last school year. But the number is still lower than the overall completion rate of 85 percent.
“There’s still work to be done,” said Davie.