Private school seeks help from Six Nations to secure annual budget, operations

A tablet, and a few books sit stacked on a school desk. In the background a brown school table and 2 blue chairs.
Board members for the Kawenni:io/Gaweni:yo Private School and Six Nations Elected Council have agreed to help the school in securing funding from Indigenous Services Canada in the form of an annual budget plan cycle. Photo courtesy of Wokandapix/Pixabay.
Andrew Dow - CJKS - OhswekenON | 14-11-2022
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Kawenni:io/Gaweni:yo Private School (KGPS) is looking to secure its budget and operations with help from Six Nations.

Last week, board members presented to Six Nations Elected Council (SNEC) about their difficulties in developing an annual budget plan cycle between SNEC, KGPS and Indigenous Services Canada (ISC) to ensure that operations in the native immersion school can be kept safe and less stressful.

Currently, the school has over 150 students and it operates out of leased office space in the upstairs portion of the Iroquois Lacrosse Arena (ILA). The school has never owned a building and have instead operated out of various facilities on the Six Nations of the Grand River Territory since the school's inception in 1986.

KGPS is in the process of fundraising for a new 30,000 square foot school to be built. The board says the new school facility will cost $15.6 million in order to construct and close to another $1.9 million annually to sustain operations and maintenance costs. The majority of costs include site work, exterior, mechanical engineering plans, sub-structure, interiors, services, equipment/furnishings, special construction and contingency.

Ruby Jacobs, chair of the board for KGPS, said its tough to sustain operations with insecurity of funding.

"We can't seem to somehow establish the annual funding budget, and it it takes all three (KGPS, SNEC, ISC) of us. We should be able to get together and do it, so that it's set for the year and it doesn't have to go through all kinds of revisions through the year and nobody can answers any questions and know where were at exactly or know how much is coming," she said during the Nov. 7 general finance meeting.

"This is what we're trying to work out so that it doesn't take the time, the stress, the worry of how much money we have to spend and how can we prepare our annual budget and be safe. If it doesn't work out do we have do layoffs? It's really threatening to run an organization when it's so insecure like that," she continued.

One of the key issues KGPS wants addressed in the annual budget was allocation of Operations and Maintenance funding (O&M). Jessica Bomberry, executive director for KGPS, outlined the unique circumstances the school has to follow to maintain operations, including renting floor time at the ILA if it rains for students to use which can cost upwards of 800 dollars a month; renting busses to go to the Dajoh Youth & Elders centre in Ohsweken to use the gymnasium; among other issues. Bomberry said she wanted clarification on what KGPS should be calculating as total spaced used and whether that would include rented facilities as well.

Jennifer Court, director of Financial Reporting and Analysis for SNEC, said she has spoken with ISC and gave a rundown to KGPS of where the allotted amount of $24,000 from ISC funding for O&M dollars was being provided. She added that that the allocation was not based on the standard process of establishing operations and maintenance dollars which is calculated by the amount of space used by the school at a rate of $75.80 per square meter.

Chief Mark Hill and Six Nations Director of Public Works Michael Montour both encouraged the school to establish a O&M dollar figure that included the space used at the ILA and other rented facilities that are used.

"It all comes down to ISC's calculations and formula's but this all as you (Bomberry) say with Kawenni:io it's all in  a special circumstance," Hill said. "That's something that I think we have to get more creative with to make sure we're offsetting the costs for the school, so that you're not necessarily having to run on a deficit to cover rent for example. That to me is a huge political advocacy piece that we can further support you with."

Jacobs said that there will be an update on the new KGPS school building project on Nov. 15 and she invited councilors to join the update.

For more information on the new KGPS building, visit their website or call the office at (905) 768-7203.

Listen to the full CJKS story below: