(Macaulay Elementary School/SD61)

A new board chair for the Greater Victoria School district (SD61) has been selected after the previous board chair resigned in light of criticism from Indigenous nations.

New chair, Ann Whiteaker, was elected as the new chair Monday night during a public Zoom meeting.

Last week, Jordan Watters, the previous chair, resigned in honour of a request from Songhees Nation, Esquimalt Nation, Métis and urban Indigenous community members of the community, she said.

Recently, School District 61 has been criticized for cutting music programs, in light of their $7-million budget deficit.

The budget process insinuated that the cuts were on the table because of a lack of Indigenous student participation in music programs.

In a letter to School District 61, parent and former member of the district’s Indigenous Ad Hoc Committee, Carey Newman, criticized the implication.

In an interview with CBC from May, Newman said “[They’re] now comparing music and Indigenous students’ literacy, which is really divisive, and it’s counter to the idea of reconciliation.”

“It has the effect of saying that for them, equity means bringing down the level of access and opportunity for all students, not raising the level for Indigenous students, and I was pretty upset by that,” he said.

In a tweet last week regarding her resignation, Watters said the resignation came in part due to her reflecting on “some hard truths” on SD61’s commitment to reconciliation.

Watters will stay on board as a school trustee and said she will remain “in service to Lək̓ʷəŋən, Métis, First Nations and urban Indigenous children in the Greater Victoria School District.”

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