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Possible partnership in the works

By Aaron Wilgosh, The Graphic

The Portage la Prairie School Division and Long Plain School could be partnering in the future according to Superintendent Todd Cuddington. (file photo)

The Portage la Prairie School Division and Long Plain School could be partnering in the future according to Superintendent Todd Cuddington. (file photo)

It’s an idea that could benefit teachers and students alike.

The Portage la Prairie School Division has been in talks with Long Plain School principal Bill Beauchamp and band councillor Liz Merrick about a possible future partnership that would see equal funding for federal students while giving access to new supports for Long Plain teachers.

“The more we all talked the more we got a sense that (Merrick and Beauchamp) were interested in exploring a closer relationship with the division in terms of education and how we could support the Long Plain School,” says PLPSD superintendent, Todd Cuddington. “It then evolved so far that Pam (Garnham) and I started doing some research into similar partnerships that exist and we found a couple we liked.”

Discussions started almost a year-and-a-half ago between the small group. The two partnerships Cuddington is referring to are the Waywayseecappo and the Park West School Division partnership (2011) and the Whitecap Dakota First Nation and Saskatoon School Division partnership (2014). Both have proven to be very successful with Waywayseecappo and Park West boasting larger test numbers ever since their partnership was created. In 2010, only three per cent of Grades 1-4 students were at or above grade level literacy rates while in 2016, 47 per cent met that standard. 

It wouldn’t mean much of a change for Portage la Prairie students who are indigenous federal students that live in the Keeshkeemaquah community. They would continue to attend school in the division along with students in Grades 9 through 12. The difference under this arrangement, for lack of better words, would see Long Plain School become part of the Portage la Prairie School Division.

“We have to be cautious about the language we use, in the climate right now we don’t want anyone to see us as assuming (Long Plain School students) at all, but rather see us acting in a behind the scenes way to support their educational goals,” adds Cuddington, who wants to make it clear this is no way like the residential system they’re striving to get away from. “They would still be autonomous in the sense that there would be a parallel leadership structure where they would have someone acting similar to me like a superintendent, secretary treasurer and someone responsible for finance.”

The partnership would be beneficial to all the teaching staff at Long Plain School as they’d be able to take advantage of all the services available through the division. That would include all of the division professional development courses, the clinicians, specialists, and student services. As for funding, the federal government only provides at certain amount of dollars per federal student each year, and that doesn’t cover the costs PLPSD allocates for provincially funded students, which in turn hinders the ability to bring in Long Plain students. 

“It’s not a great system or sustainable long-term,” he adds. “Under the arrangement we’re discussing, it’s early of course, INAC (Indigenous and Northern Affairs) would agree to pay what we allocate away in our budget per pupil. So we would continue to be funded for our provincial students the same way as normal, but federal students would receive the equivalent dollars from the feds to help enrol them here so locals won’t be subsidizing federal students but rather the federal students would be receiving equality in terms of funding.” 

In the end, the partnership would provide education to federally funded students that would be basically the same as any other child in the Portage division. Cuddington stresses Long Plain School will still have their independence as a First Nations School while gaining the benefits of being affiliated with the PLPSD.

Questions from the public will be taken at the Portage la Prairie School Division's budget meeting open house Wednesday, February 21, at Portage Collegiate Institute. 

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