By Tammy Coulon
"The responsibility to provide an education to our students hasn’t met the IPP legislation.”
Vice Chairman of the Ute Mountain Ute Tribe
On Tuesday evening, October 26, representatives of the RE-1 School Board held its regularly scheduled policy meeting of Indian Policy and Procedures, despite the closure earlier in the day of the entire school district, by Superintendent Dr. Risha VanderWey over COVID concerns.
The meeting started with a report of the number of students tested for COVID in 2019. According to the Board, reports are always filed for the previous year and 2020 data is incomplete.
Selwyn Whiteskunk, who is the Vice Chairman of the Committee and a Ute Mountain Ute Tribal member, spoke first saying, “This report is inconclusive for the American Indian student showing a really low percentage for the students. I don’t see any achievement or progression of what our students can achieve.” He went on to announce that a position paper to be provided after the meeting would outline the responsibilities of the RE-1 school board as well as the District with regards to 34 CFR 222.94. (See legal definition below article)
Mr. Whiteskunk commented that for the Ute Mountain Tribe and parents to be successfully engaged it was “disappointing” to have reports with incomplete data. “I don’t agree with it, I have to be honest. The responsibility to provide an education to our students hasn’t met the IPP legislation.”
RE-1 School Board President Sherri Wright stated, “I agree with Mr. Whiteskunk 100% and would like advice on how to change this.”
Mr. Whiteskunk said, “We need to work together, communicate and have collaboration. Join us at Towaoc to discuss.” Sherri Wright said that she would get together with the Superintendent, Dr. VanderWey to set up a meeting.
The truancy officer for the Ute Mountain Tribe, Jeff Wilson, spoke of all teaching being only European in basis and needs to engage the needs of the Native American students and that there is a need to provide more training for students with learning disabilities.
Ms. Whitehead, who is a case worker for the Ute Mountain Tribe, offered that the Math curriculum has not worked for the native students the last 4 years and was asking, again, to have it changed. “The teachers don’t even agree with this and why is it still being used?”
Mr. Whiteskunk added, “If it wasn’t for the American Indian Students going to this district you would not have the Federal funding for providing education. We cannot pass them through the system. We say, endlessly, they are our future; kids, babies, we have to give them the opportunity. They need to be able to meet tribal needs. Be proud of who they are, get an education. We are all in this together.” He went on to say, “What books are being offered to the Native students?” and, “Are we offering Native literature? What are the recommendations?”
A parent asked the Committee, “Will you put a Ute Mountain Tribe person on the Board?” Sherri Wright responded that she has tried to recruit someone to run for election but has not had any success. She further offered that when she taught middle school, parents felt their children were losing interest in school and parents felt that they needed better quality early educational opportunities. There was a general feeling that the Tribe needed to provide busing for an after school education program. Parents have expressed frustration with a chain consisting of teacher, principal, Superintendent, and ultimately, the School Board with little real accountability, and that all should be held accountable.
Chairman Manuel Heart spoke of the need to get a Representative for District D from Towaoc to discuss the needs of the Native students.
Stacy Hall, who is the Representative for District D said that due to COVID, she has not made a trip down to the reservation. Chairman Heart said that all were welcomed to come down to Towaoc as there was a need for more parental involvement before the ninth grade.
To provide clarification for our readers, RE-1 School District D has federal oversight as it applies to this district and its Native American component. It encompasses both the Ute Mountain Ute Reservation and significant portions of non tribal land south of the Cortez city limits.
Chairman Heart noted that Montezuma County has the highest percentage of Native American students in Colorado. The yearly average is around 800.
One parent complained of no curriculum for IEP (Individual Education Plan) students for online learning. It was noted that the school district sent out a survey via email as well as a hard copy to parents. The response from this year numbered 164 versus only 29 last year. A very positive outcome for the survey.
A parent advisory committee has been established and will be meeting on November 9, 2021. One goal is to increase participation in the STEM (Science, Technology, Engineering, Math) program. Currently there are five para professionals for the district to help students.
It was mentioned that some parents of Native students feel that Cortez is not a safe environment for them due to a lack of a mask mandate. This complaint comes mostly from parents of elementary age children.
Sherry Noyes, Director of RE-1 School District F asked, “Do we have a comparison on truancy and can the Board get literature on this by January?”
A parent also expressed concern on the new resolution adopted by the RE-1 School Board to not teach CRT (Critical Race Theory) and wanted to know how Native Americans will be taught. Sherri Wright responded by saying that the District will teach culture not oppression. She further stated that no one is superior and that teachers will teach the facts of our history. No re-writing of the past.
The meeting concluded with Selwyn Whiteskunk offering that we come together as a family and have a support system and to remember we are all in this together and we need better communication as the main consensus.
34 CFR § 222.94 - What are the responsibilities of the LEA with regard to Indian policies and procedures?
(1) Its Indian policies and procedures (IPPs), and
(2) The LEA's general educational program and activities.
(1) Disseminate relevant applications, evaluations, program plans and information related to the LEA's education program and activities with sufficient advance notice to allow tribes and parents of Indian children the opportunity to review and make recommendations.
(2) Provide an opportunity for tribes and parents of Indian children to provide their views on the LEA's educational program and activities, including recommendations on the needs of their children and on how the LEA may help those children realize the benefits of the LEA's education programs and activities. As part of this requirement, the LEA will -
(i) Notify tribes and the parents of Indian children of the opportunity to submit comments and recommendations, considering the tribe's preference for method of communication, and
(ii) Modify the method of and time for soliciting Indian views, if necessary, to ensure the maximum participation of tribes and parents of Indian children.
(3) At least annually, assess the extent to which Indian children participate on an equal basis with non-Indian children in the LEA's education program and activities. As part of this requirement, the LEA will:
(4) Modify the IPPs if necessary, based upon the results of any assessment or input described in paragraph (b) of this section.
(5) Respond at least annually in writing to comments and recommendations made by tribes or parents of Indian children, and disseminate the responses to the tribe and parents of Indian children prior to the submission of the IPPs by the LEA.
(6) Provide a copy of the IPPs annually to the affected tribe or tribes.
(3) If an LEA determines, after input from the tribe and parents of Indian children, that its IPPs do not meet the requirements of this section, the LEA shall amend its IPPs to conform to those requirements within 90 days of its determination.
(4) An LEA that amends its IPPs shall, within 30 days, send a copy of the amended IPPs to -
(i) The Impact Aid Program Director for approval; and
(ii) The affected tribe or tribes.
(Authority: 20 U.S.C. 7704)
[81 FR 64744, Sept. 20, 2016]