DEAs clamor for more control over decisions
“At some point, local governing bodies had a lot more power”
The Minister of Education said it himself: the role of the District Education Authority is one of the most “misunderstood and worrisome” jobs in a community — even more so because the roles and responsibilities for many DEA members are not all that clear.
Education Minister Ed Picco was just the first to address a gathering of DEA chairs who came from all over Nunavut to Iqaluit last week to give their views on the proposed new Education Act.
Shirley Tagalik, manager of curriculum and school services in the department of education’s Arviat office, opened the three-day meeting with a game.
She asked seven people to read statements she had collected from people who had been involved in education in Nunavut over the last 50 years. The rest of the group was asked to arrange the readers into a chronological timeline.
The timeline proved a bit difficult — evidence that Nunavut’s schools have gone through several incarnations since education first came to the North in the 1950s. But all of the DEA chairs in the room agreed that the following statement is from the present day:
“I am not too sure what my roles and responsibilities are. I deal mainly with complaints and concerns from parents. I also provide advice to the school staff on cultural programs but a lot of the time we are not involved in running these. It really depends on how much the principal wants to ask and listen to us… I don’t have a voice in what’s happening and I feel like I’m being set up to fail.”
In fact, that statement was made by a DEA member in advance of a DEA leadership meeting held in January, 2001, yet little has changed.
“At some point, local governing bodies had a lot more power,” Tagalik said, recalling the community education societies that operated in the 1960s, and the regional boards that followed.
That game was just an opener to a session in which DEA representatives from across Nunavut expressed their wishes for more training of new members, more access to the minister of education, and more control over schools.
“The main reason we abolished regional boards was to get power to the communities, but I think that in order to be viable, the communities will have to take more responsibilities,” said Johnny Ningeongan, who represents Nunavut’s hamlets on the Education Act steering committee. “That was one of the main goals of the self-government.”
Andrew Tagak Sr. represented the Iqaluit DEA on behalf of chair Christa Kunuk.
At an IDEA meeting this past Monday night, Tagak reported that all of the DEAs expressed a desire for more control over hiring, disciplining and firing principals and teachers. The DEA chairs also want the act to express Inuit Qaujimajatuqangit principles.
“These are big ticket items,” Tagak said. “We might not get them all.”
During a lunchtime dinner with Picco, Tagak reported, the DEA chairs made a request for a DEA advisory committee that would include five regional representatives reporting directly to the minister, rather than to the regional school operations boards.
“There would be no passing of the buck,” Tagak said.
All of these requests were just part of the multi-part consultations happening all over Nunavut. Legislative specialist Manitok Thompson, who chaired the meeting, will compile these views before a new made-in-Nunavut Education Act is drafted.
Though no promises were made, Tagak felt that the meeting “was very hopeful.”
“Hopefully that act will be favourable,” he said.
Lucy Quasa, the DEA chair from Pond Inlet said, the meeting itself was a good experience. She was able to tell representatives from the education department that her DEA needs more training, and more communication from the Qikiqtani School Operations, even though that office is located in Pond Inlet.
It was also the first time in several years that elected DEA representatives were able to meet and talk together about their concerns.