Self-Determination in Education is a recognized inherent right of Cree Nation's people. The Onion Lake Education System and its governing Board, the Onion Lake Board of Education, were established by the exercise of this right under the Onion Lake Cree Nation's Chief and Council. It is the intent of this Cree Nation, in due time, for Cree Nations people to assume all leadership roles within this education system.
As a result of a long and detailed discussion and learning process, the Onion Lake Cree Nation finally took total control of their children's education in 1981. In 1984, control of the post-secondary allowance system was added to the Cree Nation's responsibilities.
Thus the Board of Education has assumed total responsibility for an educational system which meets the unique needs of its band members. At the same time, its doors remain open to all students regardless of race, creed or national origin.
We believe that Education should be responsive to social, political and economic realities of the community and the world; preparing its students to assume productive and responsible roles in society. In doing so, the Onion Lake Education System must prepare our students to participate with competence in both the Cree Nations and Non-Cree Nations worlds, and to appreciate the merits of both. We recognize that this task can only be accomplished in an environment which reflects the integrity of the individual, the involvement of the community, mutual respect between staff and students, and the principle of free inquiry and expression.
HOW WE ACHIEVE THE MISSION
In fulfilling its educational mission, the Onion Lake Education System must be comprehensive in nature, providing to the fullest extent possible, the educational alternatives which respond to the unique qualities, abilities and potential of each individual student. It must, likewise, create an environment which stimulates and enhances the total development of each individual student.
To this end, the Onion Lake Education System will utilize the resources of curriculum, staff, students, community and environment to assist each student to attain the following:
1) A working knowledge of basic academic skills which will serve as a foundation for future endeavors and life long learning.
2) Moral and ethical values consistent with the teachings of our Cree elders.
3) Physical and emotional health.
4) An ability to cope rationally, intelligently and constructively with problems and issues.
5) Pride in one's self and the understanding of one's relationship to the community, his/her surroundings, and the world.
6) A thorough understanding of Treaty Rights and its implications.
7) Promote Cree Nation culture, society, values, beliefs, history, tradition and language.
In meeting this challenge, the Onion Lake Education System is committed to a standard of excellence in all aspects of the educational process. The staff and the community, as well as the Cree Nation's Board of Education are charged with the responsibility of fulfilling this commitment.
Every year the Board of Education sets priorities (in the spring) for the upcoming school year. Some of these goals are continuations from the previous year. The purpose of this goal setting is to improve the overall learning for our children.
Goal #1: Increase Literacy Skills (Year 2)
Our first goal was to improve the literacy skills for our students so we developed a long range Literacy Strategy that will encompass all of its schools including the Daycare and Headstart Program. The bottom line is that we want all of our students reading at Grade Level and we want our students reading earlier. This strategy started in September 2005. Below is a brief explanation of some of the components of the strategy.
Picture-Word Induction Method : The core of this language experience approach is the use of the students' developed listening/speaking vocabulary. The students study topics and discuss them, then dictate to the teacher. The dictated material becomes the source of their first sight words, and their first efforts to master the alphabetic principle that come from their study of the structures of those words. As sight words are learned, phonetic and structural concepts will be developed through the analysis of those words.
This method shall eventually be used for all students up to Grade 6. It will for the foundation for our Language Arts Program for the early years. It is our expectation that the majority of our Kindergarten Students shall exit the program with measurable reading skills. We are joining up with Northern Lights School Division for Professional Development on this strategy.
Grade 2 Safety Net: The goal of this strategy is to have all of our regular students exiting Grade 2 at grade level with their reading. We will be targeting 2 nd graders falling behind in reading. Several elements contribute to students' success:
1. One on one tutoring: Students are tutored for one half-hour each day, with equal time reading familiar text, writing about what they have read, and learning strategies to tackle unfamiliar text.
2. Teacher Expectations: Tutors must show confidence in the student and have high expectations for the child's success.
3. Teacher Interactions: Teachers modify the program for individual children's needs.
4. A Holistic Approach to Instruction: From the start of the reading process, we use a multidimensional approach that allows students to study words and sentences that come from their own speaking/listening vocabulary and are connected to their environment.
5. Daily Reading : Students learn to read by practicing reading, with all of its complexities, every day.
6. Ongoing Assessment: Students shall be continually monitored as to their progress.
We employ 1 staffmember to implement this program.
Read to Succeed: . The components to this strategy are: (1) The Picture-Word Induction Model is the centerpiece (see above), (2) Reading a balance of nonfiction and fiction to the students is a regular activity, (3) Writing to prompts is a regular activity, (4) Silent reading, including independent reading at home, is a daily activity.
Pewasenakwan and Chief Taylor shall be instituting a Drop Everything And Read (DARE) program for 15 minutes daily. In addition, Pewasenakwan and Chief Taylor will be starting a Read At Home (RAH) program. Children will be bringing home reading materials every night. The schools will be tracking the total amount read - minimum of 10 minutes per night.
Each of the strategies listed above are based on research and have been implemented in the Northern Lights School Division. They have seen dramatic increases in the reading abilities of the children that went through the programs.
Obviously, these strategies are very complex and require that our staff understand them completely if they are to succeed. We shall be devoting some of our Professional Development Days to our Literacy Strategy.
One of the key factors in determining the success rate of early readers is the amount of reading they do both in school and at home (or for very early readers, the amount that they are read to). The school and the home must both do their part.
Goal 2: To increase the self confidence of our students
It is our belief that activities promoting self confidence will lead to greater success for our students. Our four main strategies related to this objective include (1) enhancing the Character Educational program within the schools, (2) implementing a circle program within the schools, (3) increasing team building activities withiin the schools, (4) ensuring that every child experiences success in school.
Each of these strategies have several specific actions as to how we will accomplish it.
Goal 3: To increase student attendance system wide
It is a proven fact that the more a student misses school, the less they achieve. We are seeing a trend in our schools of decreasing student attendance. For our part, we have developed three streategies that we shall be implementing this school year (1) Include more relevant programming: this action is mainly targetted at Eagleview School and consist of apprenticeships (carpentry, welding, cosmetology), survey courses, and fine tuning existing courses (including more First Nations content); (2) To develop & implement a communication strategy in the community - thew objectives of this strategy are to (a) To enlighten community as to developments in education (b)To ensure that parents are aware of school functions, student achievement, and attendance; (3) The third strategy is to improve the school environment. The schools must be a welcoming, caring, and compassionate place where students feel safe and appreciated. Our goal is to make each school such a place.