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A Great School, by the Numbers
EDUCATION: Walpole Island Elementary School
Posted By DAVID GOUGH, QMI AGENCY
If the efforts of a model school program pay off, Walpole Island Elementary School will be the launching pad for future engineers, scientists and astronauts.
Former Prime Minister Paul Martin was at Walpole Island on Thursday morning to announce that Walpole Island will become a flagship school for numeracy among First Nation schools across Canada. It is hoped that the numeracy program will eventually spread across Canada.
The funding for the five-year project will come from the Martin Aboriginal Educational Initiative, a charitable organization.
Martin is familiar with Walpole Island. During the announcement held at the school's gymnasium, he recalled how he used to come up to Walpole Island in the summer with his dad, former Liberal cabinet minister Paul Martin Sr. The pair would meet with Walpole Island band council and then go on fishing excursions.
Martin said if feels wonderful to give back to a community he knows well.
"It gives me a great sense of pride," Martin said of giving back to an area he is familiar with.
Martin said Walpole Island was chosen to become a model school is because they are progressive in terms of education. He also points to partnerships Walpole Island has with the Lambton-Kent District School Board and Wallaceburg District Secondary School.
On Thursday afternoon, Martin made the announcement that Chippewas of Kettle and Stony Point First Nation will host the model school for literacy.
"They were chosen by people who looked around and said, 'look, this is one of the most progressive communities that you can work in," Martin said of Walpole Island and Kettle and Stony Point.
Walpole Island First Nation Board of Education chairman Bill Tooshkenig said the initiative will be a significant step in helping students improve their skills in numeracy, which in turn will enhance their success as they move on to higher education and success in the workplace.
The five-year project will be based on the curriculum and teaching strategies that came from Ontario's at-risk elementary schools.
The programs will include providing professional development to assist teachers, fund lead teachers who have training about the best practices and most effective techniques, developing a school improvement team that meets regularly to review school data and plan next steps, hire external experts to visit the school for a few days a month to assist the principal and teachers and plan for parent involvement and community engagement.
Martin said the approach being used has proved to be successful.
"Where it has never been attempted is among the First Nations. And there will be adaptations with the First Nations. We would like to see it across the country," Martin said of the model school approach.
One of the goals of Martin's charitable organization is to turn around the large dropout rate that exists for aboriginals in high schools.
Experts told Martin that the best way is to target students in elementary schools.
Since he has retired from politics, Martin has divided his time between aboriginal issues and issues in Africa.
Martin said aboriginal issues are important to him because aboriginal Canadians have to be given the same opportunities that other Canadians are given.
"The federal government, who has a responsibility for education, underspends substantially on a per capita basis. I think that is wrong morally, but it is also stupid economically. Aboriginal Canadians are the youngest and fastest growing segment of our population. Why in God's name (are we) discriminating against them in education," asked Martin. "We should want every young Canadian to have the same opportunity to have a good education. I think that's a Canadian value."
Walpole Island Chief Joseph Gilbert said that the model school program is a tool that can help change the future of not only the student body but the community as a whole.
"I see a great future for us," Gilbert said.