Elections were recently held at the Cree School Board. The latest Chairman is Luke MacLeod. Also elected as the Vice-Chair is Lisa Petagumskum. The third member of the new executive is Robert Weistche.

Luke MacLeod has been with the school board for a number of years. He served as a commissioner representing Mistissini for about five years. He also had previous experience as a school committee member and also as chairman of the school committee for over seven years.

MacLeod told The Nation he felt he learned a lot from all his past experience. In the past six months MacLeod has been active as a negotiator between the school board and Quebec’s Ministry of Education and feels this experience will prove invaluable in the coming year. He started his one-year term as Chair at the end of June. The Chairman is nominated and elected by the Commissioners from all the communities.

The Nation: Congratulations on your election. I guess my first question is will you be doing anything different from your predecessor? Luke MacLeod: I can’t say anything different I think, though, that everyone has their own methods of working with people and I can’t be someone else. I am going to be myself. I won’t change that.

But being from this community of Mistissini and since the head office is here,

I foresee we will be using the head office a lot. In the one year I have as Chairman I am going to be using this office as much as possible. I’ve never been one of these people who goes and travels. I prefer to be myself and I’m a family-oriented person. My family is important to me but when I have to, I will go out for meetings. But most of the business I am going to try to operate from this office. I feel it will help the regional office to bring the people here.

What can we expect from you in this coming year? I don’t know (laughter)… I think people know how I talked in the past and recently. We’ve accomplished a lot over the past five years. We’ve gotten a lot that the people have needed in terms of facilities. We’re continuing to get the facilities the people need but now there has to be a focus. The people have requested it and rightfully so. They’re requesting that we give them quality education.

I think the way we have to do that is by giving them the service right in our own schools.

For a couple of years we have had graduates from right out of my home community here. I can only speak on a personal basis on that. In some instances those graduating students have been able to go directly into college. In most instances, however, they need extra help to get into the programs and schools they want. As I said, not all students have to do this but the point is that if we have graduates we have to make sure when they graduate they are capable of entering the levels they are supposed to be able to enter. I think we have to be able to provide that service at the local level and the regional level. This is one of the things I am going to work for. I really believe this is needed. I want these children to succeed.

I also don’t like this idea of comparing our schools to others in the south. Every individual person has their own qualities. But for those people who need the extra help we must step forward and do it We must give them that service so they can continue and not be stalled. I think that is one of the worst things that can happen to a lot of our youth. Our youth perceive some of the schools as being not up to standards. Some parents have that feeling as well.

This is one of the reasons we need to focus on some of the accomplishments and give them the extra help or whatever they require. I know it’s going to be hard to do, to give the prerequisites they need to be able to do the post secondary programs they want to do.

Do you foresee any expansion of programs? I really can’t say at this time. We have to find a method of doing things. I have to consult with people the CSB has in place now. Be it guidance counselors, SAT’s, the school supervisor, directors or other staff. Then we can determine the best methods of doing things. As far as expansion of programs, this will be something that will be considered—if we have to expand our programs to include more pedagogical counselors in each school or whatever.

But these are things we can’t do this year as school is starting this fall—most schools start in August But it’s something we can look at for the following year. We can get the ball rolling, but remember the term for the Chairman of the CSB is only one year.

What about the team that will be working for you? Are you satisfied? At the commissioner level, the ones who have been there in the past and the ones there now—and I’m sure in the future—I’ve always believed are very good people. They’ve always had the interests of the students first We’ve always worked that way. This includes people we’ve had on a consultative basis and people working for the CSB. I would have to say, yeah, it is a good team.

For myself in this early stage of being Chairman I think I’m going to have to step back and take a new look at things from a distance first I think it would be good if a lot of people did that Step back, take a look and say what is our main objective? Take a fresh look at things. Sometimes it, or you, may become dull and predictable otherwise.

I think that will help make the team even better and we’ll see results from it.

Is there anything you would like to add? First of all I would like to thank all the people who supported me. I realize this is going to be a good challenge. I want to tell the people that when I got involved at the school level and later at the commissioner level, my main objective all the time was to contribute and at least I was willing to try.

Some of the main reasons I got involved was that I saw decisions made that I wasn’t comfortable with as a parent and later as a community member and this is why I decided to get involved. This is why I would encourage everyone to get involved with your child’s education because this is the best way to get something accomplished—by getting involved at whatever level, be it a school committee member or a parents’ group that supports the school. This is the only way you are going to make things better for your child and at the same time you will be helping out other children and the whole community.

In conclusion, I’d like to thank my predecessor Paul Cull for all he’s taught me and for his friendship.