What Does Quality Education Look Like On Cortes Island?

The next Conversation Cafe asks ‘what does quality and accessible education look like and how do we support it? Colin Funk, President of the Cortes Community Economic Development Association (CCEDA), will be the facilitator of this public meeting in the Pioneer Room of Mansons Hall from 6:00 to 8:00 PM on Thursday, November 16.

A previous Conversation Cafe – courtes CCEDA

Kate Maddigan, CCEDA’s Economic Development Officer, explained,  

“Colin is a skilled facilitator and what he usually starts with is, ‘what is your idea of success for whatever it is that we’re talking about?’ In this case, it’s education. ‘Give us your visions for success.’ And then we usually do a little bit of a review of previous efforts around the topic and the 2018 LEAP report.”

“Education wasn’t a focus area in the 2018 LEAP report, but this time it will be.” 

“For every focus area, we have maybe four strategic directions. That could be opportunities for skilled work training,  continuing education for adults,  strong and varied educational options for children, and retention of families with school aged children. Things like that, but maybe some people will come up with much better ones.”

“Then we get into prioritized actions, like what do we need to do to advance those directions. A lot of people usually have really good ideas about what we need to do to get those things off the ground.” 

“Manda Aufochs Gillespie will be there as well. She’s a really great educational advocate on the island.” 

“So that’s it in a nutshell. It’s only two hours and it’s amazing what you can do . I was really impressed with how much we actually accomplished with the small business Conversation Cafe in September.

Cortes Currents: Lets talk about this a bit further. From your perspective,  what does quality education look like on Cortes Island?

Kate Maddigan: “We’re not just talking about children. It’s for all ages because we need  to support the community.  So what do we have  on Cortes right now? We’ve got the Cortes school, we’ve got the Cortes Island Academy. We  have Hollyhock and it sounds like Channel Rock sometimes. People put on workshops, like the Old Schoolhouse Art Gallery did a life drawing class recently, and occasionally someone like Brig Weiler will put out a  fabric dyeing workshop with natural dyes, and that’s really neat that people do that, and now there’s lots of online options.”

“The previous LEAP report outlined a lot of the things that we had.  There have been a few changes in education since the 2018 report came out. One huge thing is that report did not have a section on education and this new update will include education because a thriving community does have educational options for all ages.” 

“I think we can divide education on Cortes into two different overall categories. There’s the educational tourism that we’re all pretty familiar with and then there’s just the local education for residents.” 

“There could be stronger and more varied options educationally for children.  We probably want to retain families so they don’t have to go off island to and get education for their children. We want more opportunities for skilled work training that meets the needs of Individuals.  The 2018 report went into a  few prioritized action ideas, lke partnering with an educational institution to set up learning opportunities around forestry, ecology, arts, and those kinds of things.  Maybe we want more continuing education for adults,  also known as lifelong literacy. Those are the things that might come up for people.”

Cortes Currents: Tell me a little bit more about families having to move off Cortes Island so their kids can continue their education. 

Kate Maddigan: “That was the weakness of our community  that Manda Aufochs Gillespie  was trying to address by starting the Cortes Island Academy. A lot of the time the whole family leaves  and they take with them skills that the community needs. Like, the fire chief was talking about how it was so hard when you train up people for the volunteer fire crew, and then they’ve got to leave. They take all that with them. Just retention of the families is important for the community. They don’t have to go if there’s schooling for the children.  It is considered a huge educational gap for rural areas in Canada. That’s what the Cortes Island Academy was trying to address.”

Cortes Currents: The Cortes Island academy only runs half the year,  from September to January. Is it addressing the need?

Kate Maddigan: “I think it’s beginning to. I’ve got a child who’s in grade nine, and  the Cortes Academy is for grades 9 to 12. Granted,  you have to figure out something else for the rest of the year, but I think it’s a  really good start for Cortes to try this and it’s in its second year.” 

“For me as a parent, it’s just so great that my child has full time schooling with a bunch of kids his age. The academy attracted international students, and  students from other communities like Salt Spring, Courtenay, Campbell River and the Outer Islands.”

Kate Maddigan: “It’s not for everybody, but if you’re a family that is fininding it unbelievably difficult to move off island and facilitate your child going to, say, Carihi High in Campbell River,  it’s a totally viable option. You get your high school credits and you’re with a huge cohort of children your age.”  

Cortes Currents: How do we support quality education?

Kate Maddigan: “Starting this conversation is a really big part of it. The LEAP report is  really important because people who have  the funding to help us meet these community needs don’t have a clue  what our challenges are and they don’t know how to help us unless we have these conversations and put them on record.” 

“The LEAP report of 2018 helped us do that. It helped fund projects on Cortes that otherwise would have been more difficult to do. It provides evidence of the community’s hopes and dreams. This is a really important first step to realizing those hopes and dreams.” 

“Next Thursday, I really look forward to hearing what people want to see and, specifically, what their needs are. One of the things about the Cortes Island Academy is that maybe we can turn this into a bit of an apprenticeship program for youth. Skills training for adults is really important too.”

The meeting on Thursday will be the third of six Conversation Cafes. The first two dealt with small business and tourism. Future topics include Transportation, Reconciliation, and Land Use Planning. 

These gatherings are being used to help update the next Local Economic Action Plan (LEAP), a key document for grant writers, government officials and even media outlets like Cortes Currents

Images of students courtesy Cortes Island Academy

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