The Winnipeg School Division is considering a proposal that could lead to a huge change in how the division’s catchment area is represented on its board.
The division held a meeting on Oct. 28 to discuss proposed ward boundaries and to hear from community members. The proposal is to alter the division to be made up of nine wards instead of three. Currently, there are three trustees in each of the division’s three wards, but that may soon turn into nine wards with one trustee in each.
Taking place at the WSD boardroom at 1577 Wall St., division trustees heard from a total of 15 speakers. The trustees said little on the matter themselves during the meeting — they only spoke when asking residents to clarify their points. Thirteen of the speakers were scheduled, but two volunteered to speak up at the end of the delegations.
Fourteen of the 15 speakers spoke in favour of the nine-ward system, making the case that a trustee who solely represents a specific, smaller ward will represent that community better and will be more engaged with the community.
Dean Koshelanyk was the one speaker who wasn’t in favour of a nine-ward system, but he stated he wasn’t against it either. Koshelanyk just felt the decision requires more time and research.
"It just seems very odd to me that we want to push this through (right away)," Koshelanyk said. "We need to review this properly."
But former WSD employee Fiona Muldrew disagreed.
"We’ve studied this issue for a long time, and we’ve talked about this idea for a long time. It’s time to make some changes," Muldrew, who now lives in St. Boniface, said. "Maybe most of the public hasn’t been involved in that decision-making, but as you can see, the aboriginal community is saying, ‘come on, we’ve been waiting too long.’"
Many of the residents who spoke in favour of a nine-ward system are active in the aboriginal community, and believe establishing a nine-ward system will increase indigenous understanding, education, and representation.
"Twenty-five or more per cent of students in the Winnipeg School Division are indigenous children, and yet when it comes to the governance level, we do not have a single indigenous trustee on the WSD board," Jennifer Rattray, a resident within the division, said.
Rattray also believes significant changes need to be made to the school system as well as to the division.
"In some neighbourhoods, 55% of young people are not graduating from high school. I think that’s completely unacceptable," Rattray said. "I think that all of the children in those areas are not stupid — the system does not meet the needs of the children, and it’s not providing relevant or respectful education for the children whose population makes up most of Winnipeg’s inner city and North End. Looking at the governance level is one of the ways we can make changes that’s needed."
At the conclusion of the meeting, school board chair and Ward 3 trustee Suzanne Hrynyk said the trustees would not be making a decision that night, but will consider all the presentations made.
For more information about WSD, visit https://www.winnipegsd.ca or call 204-775-0231.