Impact Aid hearing draws comments
The hearing gives tribal parents a chance to give input on services they would like to see for Indian students.
District 509-J was estimated to receive $2.4 million in Impact Aid funds from the federal government for the 2012-13 school year, but so far, only 45 percent of that has been received.
Impact Aid funds, paid in lieu of property taxes, go into the district's general fund to be used for staff salaries, the purchase of textbooks and computers, and after-school and enrichment programs.
"To put this in perspective, Impact Aid supports approximately 25 teaching positions across all buildings," stated printed materials handed out at the meeting.
At the hearing, Urbana Ross, tribal chief operating officer, strongly encouraged the use of more career and academic counselors to help tribal students be successful and college-ready.
Shirley Allen said she would like to see funding for an extra daytime tutor at Jefferson County Middle School. "Some kids are already traveling 14 miles a day (to JCMS) and it's hard for them to stay longer for the activity bus if the tutor is after school," she said.
She also would like to see more money spent on direct teaching hours (as opposed to aides). "Our students have a different learning style. Paper and pencil work is not how Native American students learn best. We need to find the best methodology for teaching Native American students," she said.
Lyle Rhoan requested that tribal language be taught in the class rooms.
Delson Suppah Sr. asked that more meetings on education be held with tribal parents to keep them informed.
Board Chairwoman Laurie Danzuka thanked those who spoke, saying, "I appreciate the parents who took the time to come and speak to the board. We do know there's a lot of work ahead, and are mindful of that as we begin the construction of a new K-8 school in Warm Springs."
"We haven't given up, even though funding gets tighter every year and we haven't received our full Impact Aid money yet. Parents can be involved by being on the curriculum committee, and the board is mindful of tribal culture in the curriculum at the preschool and school level," Danzuka said.
The district's printed report of recommendations noted that tribal students' frequent absenteeism and suspensions lead to lower graduation rates.
One way to address the problem is through the district's Title VII program, which sponsors community liaisons and educational assistants.
Title VII staff includes community liaison Butch David, who tutored 15 tribal fifth-graders in reading and math skills.
At the middle school, David, as a liaison, and Dawn Hendrix, the after-school program instructor, served 60 tribal students needing extra help.
"Substantial progress was made this year in reducing absences for about three-fourths of the students," the report said.
At Madras High School, community liaison Lana Leonard and study skills instructor (first Becky Dudney then Mary Haws) helped 31 students at the Warm Springs Alternative Education Center recover high school credits toward graduation.