Address overuse of Evergreens: trustee

getting rid of adult education should mean the school district can now focus on giving students more chances to graduate

It was a tough decision, but getting rid of adult education should mean the Cowichan Valley school district can now focus on giving students currently in school more chances to graduate with a useful diploma, according to one school trustee.

Joe Thorne told his colleagues at a committee meeting April 26 to discuss the 2016/17 budget that he wants to see an end to what he called “the revolving door” that saw many aboriginal students leaving high school with an Evergreen Certificate instead of a Dogwood Certificate.

The Evergreen is a B.C. school-completion certificate awarded to students with a special needs designation.

“It is not a graduation certificate like the Dogwood and is usually not sufficient for direct entry into most post-secondary programs,” according to the Ministry of Education website.

Education Minister Mike Bernier announced earlier this year that the province is moving forward to address concerns raised by B.C. Auditor General Carol Bellringer and education partners about the disproportionately high number of aboriginal students receiving Evergreen Certificates.

B.C. schools will no longer be allowed to issue Evergreen Certificates to students unless they are classified as students with special needs and have an Individual Education Plan, ensuring the certificates are used only for their original purpose, the Ministry says.

The change was made at the request of the First Nations Education Steering Committee, the British Columbia School Trustees Association and British Columbia Teachers’ Federation.

Restricting the use of Evergreen Certificates was recommended by the auditor general in her report, An Audit of the Education of Aboriginal Students in the B.C. Public School System, released in November 2015.

Thorne — a parent and grandparent of aboriginal students — took the opportunity to reiterate his concerns when he attended the BCSTA convention in Vancouver recently.

“You all heard what I said to the minister and the deputy minister; I was very angry. But we agreed when we ran for election that our motto was: Students First! and that has to stay. I’m being realistic. We know we’ve got some things to go after, like eliminate the Evergreen. We’ve talked to the principals and the teachers, saying: ‘Please let’s stop the revolving door.’ “

It was the knowledge that closing the district-run adult education program might free up some money to give aboriginal high school students better futures that led Thorne to vote for closing that program, he said.

“We may not like what we’re doing, but we’re doing our best for damage control to benefit the children that are in school. We need to concentrate on Dogwood [certification].”