Aboriginal Inquiry: Lifting All Learners

An Impact Assessment of the Aboriginal Enhancement Schools Network (AESN)

4.7.4 Leadership

As this case has made clear, this is a district where learning centered leadership is a core belief and practice; their small size suggests that there are challenges they face, particularly related to resources, but its size has also provided opportunities for innovation and creativity. We saw plenty of both in this school district. As the case above has outlined, the teachers in this district are using a wide variety of experiential, online and site based approaches to integrating Aboriginal content in their curriculum. The district and its community have successfully created a local Aboriginal Enhancement Agreement that is well on its way to being implemented throughout the district. Although senior leaders within the district acknowledged to us during our site visit the need to more explicitly link their AEA with the work teachers and formal leaders were doing to more fully incorporate Aboriginal understandings into their approaches to working with Aboriginal and non-Aboriginal youth in their district, we certainly heard during our conversations that most district staff understood the goals of enhancing student success—for both Aboriginal and non-Aboriginal learners—implicit within that agreement. We also heard how the district has begun to develop important regional and local partnerships with Indigenous peoples and organizations and are actively sharing their learning with other teachers beyond their own borders and with the greater community: both of these are important indicators of how the Network has provided this district with important tools to effect broader scope changes. And as the Superintendent, Denise Perry points out, the district is embracing planning and resource allocation processes that put collaborative inquiry at the core of how they work to establish professional goals for principals and teachers alike, ensuring inquiry becomes embedded into their core activities.

It was also apparent that the leadership of District Principal, Terry Taylor, has had a central effect on change in this district; teachers and district leaders repeatedly mentioned her personal commitment to effecting change in the district’s approach to ensuring all students’ school success, how she modeled new approaches to working with Aboriginal knowledge and cultural practices, and gave teachers opportunities and resources to explore their own interests and passions related to Aboriginal education through the auspices of her district support role. In sum, while the Network itself enables much innovation, it requires district leadership to expand and extend such initiatives. Therefore supportive leadership at all levels is an important condition for effecting systemic change within a district.