North

Fort Resolution District Education Authority and parent coalition meet, resolve to address future concerns

The Fort Resolution District Education Authority met with a newly formed parent coalition this week. The coalition called for the special meeting after serious allegations about Deninu School as a workplace and educational centre surfaced in the media.

This is the first meeting between the two groups since concerns about Deninu School came to light in the media

The Deninu School in Fort Resolution. On Monday a parent's coalition met with the local district education authority to discuss alleged problems at the school. (Julie Plourde/Radio-Canada)

The Fort Resolution District Education Authority (DEA) met with a newly formed parent coalition at Deninu School on Monday.

South Slave Divisional Education Council superintendent Souhail Soujah was also in attendance, along with Tu Nedhé-Wiilideh MLA Richard Edjericon who joined in by phone.

The coalition called for the special meeting after serious allegations about Deninu School as a workplace and educational centre surfaced in the media recently. Deninu School is the only school in Fort Resolution, a community of about 500 people.

At least seven staff members left the school at the end of the 2021-22 school year. In interviews with the CBC they said their concerns about job security and accusations of misconduct and verbal abuse were not taken seriously by the school board.  A subsequent story from Cabin Radio documented similar allegations.

Problems not unique to Fort Resolution, says DEA chair

The DEA went through the bulleted list of concerns with the parents, noting that confidentiality prevents them from speaking on some topics. The parents' coalition concerns included high staff turnover in the last year, as well as low student attendance numbers and concerns about teaching credentials.

The coalition said that Deninu staff are teaching classes without proper credentials and that students are graduating who still require upgrading to move on to post-secondary studies.

Soujah explained that during a shortage of qualified teachers, the minister of education can issue a letter of authority allowing for staff who may be qualified based on experience and skills to teach classes they don't necessarily have the credentials for.

He also said that once those staffing decisions are made, the DEA does not actively try and fill the position with more qualified staff because it's better for the students to not have a high teacher turnover.

Fort Resolution DEA chair Bess-Ann McKay told the parent coalition that every district across the territory is having issues hiring teachers right now and that student attendance rates were a concern across the territory.

McKay also made it clear that the DEA does not deal with the hiring and firing of staff. Their only role in the process is to hold an interview with potential staff members and then give their recommendations.

Soujah said that teachers are routinely evaluated throughout the year, and they use these evaluations to support staff when needed. But ultimately if the DEA decides the teacher is not a good fit based on their evaluations, their contracts are not renewed.

"Our kids deserve the absolute best," said Soujah. "If our teachers are not the very best, we're certainly going to do everything we can to help those teachers."

DEA members told parents that they had never heard any of these concerns before from teachers, students, or parents. And that if there is an issue, they need to come forward so that they have a chance to try and resolve the concerns. 

Board members also explained that when new staff come to the school, they meet with them and encourage them to come to the DEA if there are any issues, and that they are all approachable.

Moving forward

Members of the parent coalition felt that issues remained to be addressed, but they generally agreed that the meeting was a positive step forward.

One parent questioned what the education authority was doing to learn from teachers who were leaving the school.

They also hope that in the future their concerns will be taken seriously and addressed in a timely manner, including through email and phone calls.

"We're not gossiping or spreading rumours, these are kids coming to us, telling us this," said Lisa Tudor, a parent of a student at the school and one of the driving forces behind the parent coalition. "I feel a moral obligation to be here."

On the advice of the board, Tudor said she will encourage parents and students to speak up and approach the DEA if there are any issues now or in the future. 

Both the coalition and the DEA agreed there needs to be better communication in the future. DEA members invited the parents to attend future meetings.

ABOUT THE AUTHOR

Carla Ulrich

Video journalist

Carla Ulrich is a video journalist with CBC North in Fort Smith, N.W.T. Reach her at carla.ulrich@cbc.ca.

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