Longtime director of education following dream to work with northern Sask. schools

Robert Bratvold speaks at his retirement tribute at the at the EA Rawlinson Centre. -- Michael Oleksyn/Daily Herald

A key member in Prince Albert education is fulfilling his dream of working with northern Saskatchewan communities.

Robert Bratvold has been the director of education for the Saskatchewan Rivers Public School Division (SRPSD) for 12 years. That’s coming to an end, though, this month.

In September, Bravold is taking on a new role as the director for the Athabasca Denesuline Education Authority (ADEA).

“I’ve had time to process that, but even so, it’s challenging to leave a place that’s been such a great place to work,” he said. “It’s tough to leave.”

Bratvold said he informed the SRPSD before Christmas that he planned to retire. In the meantime, the position at the ADEA became available. After looking up the vision of the northern school division, he was intrigued.

“I’ve been attracted to northern communities for my entire career, and this had some great potential.”

Saskatchewan Rivers School Division director of education Robert Bratvold announced his retirement effective July 31, 2023. — Sask Rivers Public School Division photo

The ADEA consists of schools in Black Lake, Fond du Lac and Hatchet Lake First Nations, serving about 1,300 students. Its regional office is in Prince Albert.

According to its website, the ADEA aims for “improved educational outcomes” by using “the latest technology, progressively piloting programs and integrating the Denesuline culture into the classroom and school curriculum.”

It also said it’s “sensitive to the social and economic realities of the community and the outside world,” and must prepare students to work in both First Nation and non-First Nation communities.

Board Chair Edward Benoire Sr. said Bratvold has shown his passion for giving students a positive educational experience.

“We are confident that his collaborative and community-based leadership approach will support our staff in their efforts to provide excellence for all of our students and families,” he said in a news release.

Chiefs Bart Tsannie, Coreen Sayazie and Louis Mercredi of Hatchet Lake, Black Lake and Fond Du Lac Denesuline First Nations cut the hide ribbon on Oct. 23, 2019 with the help of Erna Mercredi and Donald Sayazie to celebrate the launch of the Athabasca Denesuline Education Authority. — Peter Lozinski/Daily Herald

Bratvold started his education career 30 years ago in Creighton as a teacher, administrator and director. He then moved on to the SPSD.

He said his long-term goal circles around making the AEDA’s mission come true.

“Much nearer term I think is really some focus work on literacy development,” he said, adding that the authority has already done some literacy legwork. 

“I think there’s some opportunities to explore in terms of high school graduation plans and post-graduation plans.”

Bratvold said successful post-school paths start long before graduation. He hopes to help middle grade students recognize their interests and then match them with high school classes that resonate with them.

Another one of his goals is simple – listen.

“It’s a brand new organization, and I need to spend some time connecting with people, understanding the schools and the communities, seeing their strengths; seeing their needs; seeing their commitments.”

The ADEA launched in 2019. It was the first education authority in the province established under the federal government’s education transformative initiative to improve First Nations schooling.