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Ontario school board hires first superintendent of Indigenous education, reconciliation

A public school board in northwestern Ontario is hiring a superintendent of Indigenous education and reconciliation, a position believed to be the first of its kind in Canada.

New supervisor ovesees language, culture, land-based programs and implements Truth & Reconciliation report

Sean Monteith, director of education for the Keewatin Patricia District School Board, says he's excited and hopeful about the board's decision to hire a superintendent of Indigenous education and reconciliation. (KPDSB)

A public school board in northwestern Ontario is hiring  a superintendent of Indigenous education and reconciliation, a position believed to be the first of its kind in Canada.

The Keewatin Patricia District School Board (KPDSB) serves approximately 5,000 kindergarten to Grade 12 students, with an additional 1,000 adult alternative learning students.

With over half of all those students — 54 per cent — now voluntarily self-identifying as being of Indigenous ancestry, this new superintendent position is urgently needed, says Sean Monteith, the board's director of education.

'We have a lot of work to do'

"We have a lot of work to do with this population to make things right," said Monteith. "I don't think we're going to wait for someone else to do it for us. I think we're going to get involved and roll up our sleeves because there is a lot of reconciliation that needs to take place."

The successful candidate will have many duties including overseeing language, culture and land-based programs, embedding the histories of Treaties 3, 5 and 9 into the curriculum, supervising the Four Directions graduation coach program, and implementing the recommendations of the Truth and Reconciliation Commission report.

One of the key aims of the position is to help the school board close the gap in graduation and success rates between Indigenous students and their non-Indigenous peers.

"I wonder sometimes if people know what that means," said Monteith. "Closing the gap in my board ... is more than ... just a statement. It is blood, sweat and tears, sometimes literal even."

Helping Indigenous students achieve their potential is also a highly collaborative process, said Monteith, who noted the board consulted extensively with a number of tribal councils inside and outside Ontario, elders and officials with a variety of Indigenous organizations, including the Nishnawbe Aski Nation, to draft the job description for this new position.

The board isn't just talking the talk. We're walking the walk.- Sean Monteith

"This person will not be successful without all of us working together, and working together in a coherent, integrated way, so we had lots of input, lots of management and I'm excited about it and I'm hopeful too."

The board covers a vast geographic area, serving the communities of Kenora, Dryden, Red Lake, Sioux Lookout, Pickle Lake, Upsala, Savant Lake, Ear Falls, and Ignace with a system of 23 elementary and secondary schools, two board offices, and several alternative learning sites.

"The Keewatin Patricia District School Board is genuinely interested in closing gaps and we're going to do whatever it is we have to do to address that and I really hope that people in both non-First Nation communities and in First Nation communities see that the board isn't just talking the talk. We're walking the walk."

Applications are being accepted until June 29, 2018.

You can hear the full interview with Sean Monteith on CBC's Superior Morning here. 

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