W.S. residents make requests at hearing
Twelve citizens, including the tribal secretary-treasurer and chief operations officer, attended the annual Impact Aid hearing in Warm Springs, Nov. 8, during the School District 509-J Board of Directors' meeting.
Last year, the school district received $3.7 million in federal Impact Aid funds, which are paid in lieu of property taxes (federal agencies such as tribes and North Unit Irrigation do not pay property taxes). The Impact Aid money, like money from property taxes, goes into the district's general operating fund.
Charles "Jody" Calica, secretary-treasurer for the Confederated Tribes of Warm Springs, spoke at the hearing, expressing his appreciation of the efforts of Warm Springs Principal Dawn Smith and the agreement between the tribes and school district to attempt to build a school in Warm Springs.
Calica said the Tribal Council had set youth development as a priority this year.
"We need collaboration to build a new school here in Warm Springs. One that uses more dynamic learning methods and materials, including tribal history," Calica said, adding that there needed to be an ongoing, sincere dialogue with Tribal Council on behalf of Indian students.
Tribal language instructor Arlita Rhoan urged the district to include courses on tribal languages again.
"You need to allow Indian people to be who they are, not be ashamed of us. Our people need their languages. Assimilation is not the answer. You're not teaching kids to be a whole person -- just academic," Rhoan said.
She also suggested the district give teachers who work with poor or minority students incentives or bonuses, to ensure quality teachers, who will make the students feel good about themselves.
Marie Calica, chair of the Tribal Education Committee, suggested inservice classes for the entire 509-J staff so they will understand Impact Aid and Native American culture.
She said more positive role models were needed, and more Native American representation on school committees.
More Native American parents and students need to be involved in making plans to improve attendance and academic performance, she said.
Myra Johnson also urged the board to employ one of the tribal language teachers. "It will enhance our students' learning, and make them proud of who they are."
She suggested a mentorship be formed between 509-J teachers and tribal language teachers for professional development.
Parent Vesta Johnson said her ninth grade daughter was getting Ds and Fs in 509-J district classes, but after transferring to a private school has more support and is getting As and Bs this term.
Dorothea Barrey asked about provisions of the No Child Left Behind Act, which allow students to request to change schools.
Superintendent Keith Johnson said Warm Springs Elementary received a low rating, due to low attendance, and parents were sent letters saying they had to right to request their child be moved to Madras Elementary or Westside Elementary.
"Parents were notified, but no transfers were requested," Johnson said.
Laurain Hintsala, tribal chief operations officer, said her main concern was for Indian students to be prepared for college.
"If I have one message, it's prepare our kids for college ... Now our students spend their whole first year (in college) playing catch-up," Hintsala said.
School board member, and tribal education committee member Julie Mitchell submitted a letter with three recommendations:
Develop a districtwide improvement plan for Native American students, with growth at all grade levels; purchase more outdoor playground equipment for students at Jefferson County Middle School; and eliminate sports participation fees for all Native American students.
Board Chair Steve Earnest thanked people for their comments and said the board would review the recommendations.
Special Programs Coordinator Stan Pine gave a report on recommendations from Northwest Regional Labs for the Title VII Indian Education Program.
The district receives a five-year grant of $243,000 in federal Title VII funds, based on the number of Indian students in the district. There are currently 1,049 Indian students enrolled.
With the funds, Pine said 509-J hired three community liaisons, five educational assistants, secretarial services for one hour a day, and a half-time teacher at Madras High School, who helps Indian students be on track for graduation and holds an after-school program.
Title VII goals are to improve attendance and academic achievement, and to have more Native American adults working in the schools with teachers and students.
"The Native American dropout rate is 18 percent, or one out of five Native American students, which is not good at all," Pine reported.
In other business, donations of 23 sweatshirts valued at $1,750 from the Madras Mat Club, and $750 for the MHS wrestling program to buy a new scale, were accepted.
A donation of $20,000 to purchase 20 laptop computers for a mobile computer lab was accepted from the Madras Elementary Parent Club. The lab will allow state testing to be done in classrooms instead of the library.
Under personnel, Michael Johnson was hired to teach sixth grade at Jefferson County Middle School, and Dorothy Jewell was hired to teach special education at MHS.