Native Americans comment on school district’s performance

Six parents and nine children attended the Native American Family Night March 20 in the district office building to say what they like about the district and what they would improve.
Superintendent Julia Espe facilitated Native American Night and introduced the subject to the School Board on April 1. Jim Muckenhirn, who is interning in the district as part of his pursuit to obtain a school superintendent’s license, then gave a slide show presentation on the event. After the presentation, the board passed a resolution accepting the report.
Espe explained that the number of Native Americans in the school district has grown from 10 a few years ago to 48 now, and that the district is required to meet once a year with its Native American parent group to assess how the district is doing in meeting their needs. Board Chair Deb Ulm, who also attended Native American Family Night, said this is the first year she can remember in some years having the event. Close to a half dozen of the children who attended spent the time in a child care room, while the older children stayed with the adults to give input.
Of the parents attending, they had one student at South Elementary, two at North Elementary and one at the high school.
The attendees were asked a number of questions about the district. They included whether they feel welcomed and respected in the district, whether the schools try to improve student learning, if they think the schools have high academic standards, if they think the principals address and resolve problems, if they believe the principals value family input, and if they think the schools have an atmosphere of trust and mutual respect.
Other questions dealt with respect among staff and students, feelings about school safety for their children, school communication and whether the schools meet the students’ academic and social needs.
The attendees responded positively to the questions.
While commenting on the district’s strengths, the attendees responded positively about the district’s special education programs, liked the Tiger Pride program on showing respect, and they also liked the honor roll program and teachers’ flexibility.
Under the category of things to improve, the attendees suggested the district do more for post-secondary education planning for students, provide transportation for preschool children and reduce bus-riding times, since some are riding up to about an hour and 15 minutes. The group also discussed student interactions and security.
Muckenhirn, when asked later what he thought of the results of Native American Night, said: “Anytime you can hear from a targeted group, it makes you a stronger school. It helps you become aware of special issues to work on.”
It also gives the district an idea what the community sees as positive things in the district, Muckenhirn added.