Monthly Archives: April 2013

The Legacy of Residential Schools

I’ve known Chief Fred Robbins from Esketemc for many years, but it wasn’t until a soccer road trip seven or eight years ago that I first heard about his residential school experience.  I knew that Williams Lake had been home to a residential school for decades, but I’m embarrassed to say, as both an educator and a longtime resident of the community, that I knew very little about the school itself.

St. Joseph’s Mission Residential School opened in 1872 and closed in 1981.  Its story is not ancient history.  The fact that we are still dealing with its legacy should not be at all surprising.  

Last summer, Chief Fred invited me to lunch and told me for the first time about a grant that his community had applied for through the Truth and Reconciliation Commission.  At that point, he was looking for community and regional partners to be a part of a Commemoration Ceremony.  This ceremony would bring together all members of our community to take a look back at the residential school experiences of so many but also to bring all community members together for a time of healing and restoration.

Over the past year, many have partnered with Chief Fred to make this Commemoration Ceremony a reality.  Residents from a number of our First Nations communities have joined prominent community members from Williams Lake, 100 Mile House, and Quesnel.  The cities, the municipalities, the Cariboo Regional District, the RCMP, and the School District have played their parts, but it has been Chief Fred’s vision from the start that has brought us to where we are now.

I truly believe that our School District and our communities will never reach our fullest potential until we truly come together as First Nations and non-First Nations people.  This has everything to do with being neighbours in every sense of the word.  To be able to do that, we as educators need to first recognize that the residential school experiences of so many in our community will continue to impact them as well as us for our lifetimes.  We then need to learn about how all of us can work more effectively in living with this legacy.

I want to thank Chief Fred and countless others for all of their hard work to bring these events to our region.  I also want to ensure that everyone is aware of two events that are happening this week in School District No. 27:

Professional Development Day

Friday, April 26, 2013

Williams Lake Secondary School

9:00 a.m. to 12:00 noon in the Commons

Refreshments will be served. 

To register, please contact Rayna Carpenter at 250-398-3855 or

A panel of guest speakers will share:

  • Their experiences from Residential Schools and/or how Residential Schools impacted their lives
  • Ideas on how to work together with students and their families to move forward from the impacts of residential schooling

Youth Video Presentation

Sunday, April 28, 2013

Williams Lake Secondary School

1:00 p.m. in the Commons 

As part of the Commemoration Project, students from School District No. 27 are involved in a weeklong filmmaking project.  Come out to see their World Premiere, as well as the short film on residential schooling – “We Were Children”.





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Looking at a new timetable

With new beginnings come opportunities to look carefully at how we do the things that we do.  Last month, a District Implementation Committee met for the first time to discuss the new amalgamated secondary school in Williams Lake.  Discussions on day one included everything from the process of naming the new school to a new timetable to how the Grade 7’s  will be taught as compared to the rest of the student body.

On day one, no decisions were made, but some guiding principles were agreed upon by this committee that had representatives from Principals and Vice Principals, teachers, support staff, and parents.

Yesterday, a smaller group met only about a new timetable.  This subcommittee looked again at the overall guiding principles put in place by the larger committee.  We then refined the principles that were directly related to a new timetable.  We also added three new guiding principles.

The guiding principles could certainly be amended, but at present, the following is what the group has agreed to:

  • The timetable will allow for a gradual increase in student independence and leadership from Grade 7 to Grade 12.
  • The timetable will allow for consistent time for students to connect with one adult from Grade 7 to Grade 12.
  • The timetable will allow for purposeful collaboration time.
  • All students will have equal access to all electives at some point in their Grade 7 to Grade 12 years.
  • The timetable will provide all students with opportunities for more personalized and project-based learning.
  • The timetable will allow for the potential integration of literacy and numeracy in all disciplines.
  • We are open to approaching the construction of a new timetable with new perspectives.

This coming Monday, the timetable subcommittee will meet again to look at actual timetables.  Once agreed upon, this possible timetable will then be brought back to the District Implementation Committee as a whole and will be “published” here on my blog and the new school’s website so that everyone will have the opportunity for feedback.

With all of the looming changes, there are still many unknowns.  Over the next few weeks, much of this uncertainty will be dealt with.  Staff will know where they will be next year.  Students will know what their school will look like.  Parents will understand  how their children’s school day will be structured.

It’s an exciting time, and it will only get more exciting as unknowns become knowns.

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