'This program has saved me': Indigenous students concerned about changes to CBE program
The Calgary Board of Education is shifting the focus of its Indigenous support away from high school students and to the elementary and middle school levels.
“We are also in our budget proposing to maintain these services at high school for one year to transition to the new model,” said Brad Grundy, Chief Financial Officer of the CBE.
The CBE wouldn’t answer specific questions about the implications for students and staff, or the reasons for the change.
‘We know that early intervention makes a significant difference for student learning and well-being,” the CBE said in an emailed statement.
Sources tell CTV News that the majority of high schools won’t have cultural supports in the building and that staff members involved with the program on temporary or probationary contracts aren’t sure where their jobs stand.
Some high school students currently in the First Nation, Metis and Inuit graduation coach program are concerned teenagers will fall through the cracks, once the changes are made.
“The program has helped me so much. I’m a stronger person for it. I built up my character and I’m not shy to be native. I’ll wear feathers in my hair and paint my face, that’s who I am,’ said Chondra Fox, a Grade 11 student in the First Nation, Metis, and Inuit graduation coach program.
Edward Martin, a Grade 12 student who will attend university in the fall, says that wouldn’t have been possible without support from an Indigenous mentor.
“The FMNI program has really saved me from a hard spot. Without the program I wouldn't be here today,” he said.
The new model will put Indigenous education learning leaders into 'clusters of schools' for education directors and principals to 'determine where and when support is required.'
“It’s really frustrating. It’s like we’re taking two steps forward and one back,” said Fox.
Both she and Martin refuse to take that step back.
“I want to fight for this program,” said Martin.