Education official: Indian students making strides
Tribal Education Committee director suggests more ways to improve their schoolingGeneral Editor
Appreciation for last year's accomplishments in helping Indian students and suggestions for further ways to boost their academic achievement were presented at the Monday night Impact Aid hearing in Warm Springs.
Held as part of the School District 509-J Board meeting, the Impact Aid hearing offers parents and tribal education workers a chance for input on ways to use the $2.2 million in federal Impact Aid money the school district will be receiving in 2003.
Indian reservations, and federal properties like North Unit Irrigation buildings, and military bases, are exempt from paying property tax, so Impact Aid money is received by school districts in lieu of property taxes. District 509-J has a total of 1,007 federally-connected students.
Julie Quaid, director of tribal Essential Education for the Confederated Tribes of Warm Springs, praised 509-J for the strides for Indian students made last year, and presented a list developed at a public meeting held by the Tribal Education Committee which suggested the district:
--Engage tribal families in the education of their children by continuing the superintendent's weekly visits to Warm Springs and maintaining parent conferences in Warm Springs.
--Provide training for classified employees so they can better interact with Indian parents.
--Provide multicultural guest speakers for teacher in-service, student body assemblies and special events.
--Ensure disabled Indian students receive an equal opportunity through such things as having a full-time Special Ed teacher at Warm Springs Elementary, and increasing participation in Special Olympics.
--Provide after school tutoring at Madras High School for at-risk Indian students.
--Develop an organized transition plan to help students with their transition from fourth grade in Warm Springs to fifth grade at Jefferson County Middle School, and from eighth grade to ninth at Madras High School.
Quaid noted the progress made by Indian students last year in attendance and academic success, thanks to changes made by 509-J.
This included early identification of at-risk high school seniors, closing the MHS campus, switching to a trimester schedule at MHS, and increasing participation by tribal students in extra curricular and athletic activities.
The result of those changes, Quaid said was, "Last year Warm Springs had 50 graduates, the most I've ever seen. We're finally working together and sharing responsibility."
An effective partnership has also developed between the district and Tribes, Quaid said, citing their joint work on the Education Summit held for tribal parents in November, new teacher orientation, back-to-school barbecue, and passage of the bond levy.
"We had a really good year this year, working together. We had a successful Education Summit with about 100 attending and plan to do it again next year," she said.
Warm Springs and 509-J Community Liaison Marjorie Gabriel also addressed the board with her observations in working with students and suggestions for improvements.
She asked the district to make an honest effort to include American Indian perspective and curriculum in all classes.
She noted that educators need to develop more of a rapport with the Indian education community. As an example, she said the Key Club which recently started at MHS was given much support and publicity, while the Multicultural Club she advises for Indian, Hispanic and Anglo students, which has over 100 members, has received almost no support.
Gabriel feels it is important to recognize the success of Indian students, no matter how small, and said incentives do work. She recently gave 63 native students a gift for not having an F on their report card, which may not seem like much to some, but was an accomplishment for those students.
"I want you to know the youth are working hard among the drinking, drugs, violence, busing, lack of support, and misunderstanding on a daily basis. It is self-determination alone that gets some of these students to school," Gabriel said.