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Nemaska school holds first education forum

Nemaska Education Forum

Parents, teachers and community leaders came together in the high school gym this week in the name of Cree education. The Education Forum: A Community Dialogue was the first such event in the history of Luke Mettaweskum School.

“You are welcome in these hallways at any time, any day of the week.”Organized by the School Committee, the event was an opportunity for school administrators to report to the community, and the community to engage in a conversation about education.

“You are welcome in these hallways at any time, any day of the week,” said Principal Amy Gallant to the approximately 65 community members in attendance.

Topics ranged from attendance and student behavior, to literacy and numeracy levels and family engagement.

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Cree Nation of Nemaska Chief Thomas Jolly attended the full day of presentations and round-table discussions.

“We certainly need to use our education to develop our people to meet the future challenges of our community and the Cree Nation,” he said. “We need an overall comprehensive strategic approach that includes education.”

Jolly added that it is through education that any successful nation has grown.

He noted how far Cree education has come since the inception of the Cree School Board 40 years ago.

“Then, we had no idea how to start a school,” he said, “and we were coming at it with many scars as well as lessons from the residential school system.”

“Sometimes we feel our kids don’t listen, but they do.”While student behavior and attendance remain challenges in Cree School Board schools, Gallant was able to offer hope.

In the last school year, the school reported 309 suspensions; this year, with just 3.5 months to go, there have been just 74 suspensions. School administrators attribute that to a number of initiatives including the new Live School software that allows parents to monitor their child’s rewards and incidents through a secure internet portal.

The school’s message was clear: “Our kids are capable but sometimes they need our help,” Gallant said.

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The community’s message was also clear: We value education, we know our teachers are working hard, and we, as parents, grandparents, and community leaders are doing the best we can.

Keynote speaker and Luke Mettaweskum School graduate Ruth Jolly spoke on the importance of family engagement.

“I wouldn’t be here talking to you if it wasn’t for my parents,” she said, adding that her parents were incessant in their lectures about the importance of education, to the point that she’d tell them as a young teenager, that she wasn’t listening.

But she was.

“Sometimes we feel our kids don’t listen, but they do,” she said.

It was those lectures, especially from her father, that gave her the fuel to push through the myriad challenges she faced both before graduating high school, and after.

“Whatever life throws at you, if you believe you can achieve, you can overcome,” she said.

The School Committee plans to share the results of the forum with regional and local leaders and educators at the Regional General Assembly. 

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