By Duran Bobb
>Title VII Committee report
The 509-J Title VII Committee met last week for the first time this school year at the Museum at Warm Springs to schedule meetings, suggest student representatives, select a chairman and to discuss other school matters.
Tribal member Danni Katchia-Herkshan was chosen as the new chairperson. "I'm open to what works with the parents," she said.
Committee members set the first Wednesday of each month as a scheduled meeting date. The committee will meet at 12 p.m. with lunch provided by the school district.
The group also talked about the upcoming National Indian Education Association conference in Oklahoma City, Oct. 17. Four to eight students will be chosen to attend out of those who submitted an application.
"The theme this year is Technology and Using Technology," Superintendent Rick Molitor said. "That's great, because this is what they know."
"There is an oration contest, so we've encouraged students to freely speak about a topic that's interesting to them," he said. "This is an excellent opportunity for the youth, being funded by our Impact Aid funds."
Parent-teacher conferences were the next topic, when it was decided that the Warm Springs Community Center might be difficult to access due to road construction.
The committee agreed that the elementary school would be a better location for parent-teacher conferences, which will be Thursday, Oct. 11, from 4:30 to 7 p.m.
Madras and Warm Springs annex teacher Rick Wells then gave an update on the tribal history classes.
"I'm starting with a clean slate as far as having the opportunity to develop a curriculum base," Wells said. "We're focused on building on history, government and culture. We'll then move on to current events concerning the tribes."
So far, the students are well engaged in the classroom, Wells said.
"I'm having a blast doing this," he said. "It's been a great experience for me. We did the Treaty of 1855 yesterday, and I'm learning right along with the kids."
According to Steve Nelson, evaluator for 509-J, the goals have been to reduce absenteeism in the school district, increase the average GPA, reduce the number of suspensions, reduce the dropout rate, and to improve academic performance in reading and math.
"Absenteeism has gone down," Nelson said. "For the middle school, it's the best there has been in the last 30 years. Maybe some of it has been due to the engagement that Simon (White) has had with the Native (American) students."
The GPA for the middle school is the highest it has been in four years, Nelson said. Students grades seven through 12 are now averaging a GPA of 2.14, which is a solid C.
"Look at what the GPA was like in 1981," Nelson said. "Back then, students averaged 1.6. So it's come up a great deal in the last 25 years."
Title VII Indian Education programs are funded through the Indian Education Act, which was established in 1972 in recognition of special educational and culturally related academic needs of Native Americans.
Grants are awarded on an entitlement or a competitive basis, designed to improve educational opportunities for Native Americans. An elected parent committee in each school district helps identify those needs and how to best meet them.