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Greater Victoria School District board chair answers Indigenous call to resign

Citing more work ahead, Jordan Watters says she is honouring wishes of Indigenous communities
Jordan Watters resigned as chairwoman of the Greater Victoria School District Aug. 3 after four Indigenous communities asked her to step down. She will continue on as a trustee. (Black Press Media file photo)

The chair of the Greater Victoria School District announced her resignation Tuesday night (Aug. 3), saying four Indigenous communities asked her to step down.

Jordan Watters, a trustee since 2015 and chair since 2018, made her announcement over Twitter.

“This past year has been very challenging on many levels. In particular, our board has had to face some hard truths when it comes to our commitment to reconciliation and our relationships with the Four Houses: Songhees Nation, Esquimalt Nation, Metis and urban Indigenous community,” she tweeted.

SD61 came under fire multiple times this year over its lack of engagement with Indigenous people and depiction of Indigenous learners and their needs.

During its budget process, the district asked parents in a survey to rank the importance of Indigenous students’ needs against those of non-Indigenous ones. In a later board presentation, a slide suggested Indigenous learners’ success couldn’t be found in music programs. Proposed and controversial cuts to music were presented as a necessary trade off for improving Indigenous students’ completion rates.

READ ALSO: SD61 budget survey question ranks Indigenous learners’ success against others

The Greater Victoria Teachers’ Association later sent a letter to SD61 expressing their disgust and noting “a pattern of colonial thinking permeating the leadership.” Soon after, Indigenous artist Carey Newman, a member of the Indigenous Ad Hoc Committee, resigned in an open letter, citing “a pattern of systemic racism” and “deeply entrenched paternalistic attitudes.”

READ ALSO: School district’s approach to Indigenous learners leaves Victoria teachers ‘disgusted’

In her tweets Tuesday, Watters said she was recognizing the important work before the board and honouring the wishes of the Indigenous communities.

“I hope my resignation demonstrates my commitment to reconciliation and to healing the relationships between the district and the Indigenous communities we serve,” she said.

Although stepping down as board chair, Watters will continue on as a trustee. The new board chair and vice-chair will be elected in a public zoom meeting Aug. 9.

READ ALSO: ‘Pattern of systemic racism’: SD61 Indigenous committee member resigns, calls for change

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