SitNews - Stories in the News - Ketchikan, Alaska

Serious Concerns Raised With Ketchikan School District's Compliance with Indian Education Act


September 04, 2012

(SitNews) Ketchikan, Alaska - Concerns have been raised that the Ketchikan Gateway Borough School District is not in compliance with the Indian Education Act which provides Title VII funds to the school district.

In a recent letter written to the Ketchikan Gateway Borough School District's Superintendent Robert Boyle, concerns were expressed that over the past several years the local Ketchikan School District has been administering Title VII funds without the participation of tribal parents putting the district out out of compliance with the Indian Education Act. The July 30th letter was written by Cara Wallace who is the Deputy Director of Ketchikan Indian Community's Southern Southeast Alaska Technical Education Center.

Title VII, also known as the Indian Education Act or IEA funds, has been recognized as the landmark legislation establishing a comprehensive approach to meeting the unique needs of American Indian and Alaska Native students. The 1972 Indian Education Act was the landmark legislation which established a comprehensive approach to meeting the unique needs of American Indian and Alaska Native students. The latest revision occurred with the amendments made by the 2001 No Child Left Behind Act (NCLB), which reauthorize the program as Title VII Part A of the Elementary and Secondary Education Act. The Indian Education legislation is unique in the following ways:

  • It recognizes that American Indians have unique, educational and culturally related academic needs and distinct language and cultural needs;
  • It is the only comprehensive Federal Indian Education legislation, that deals with American Indian education from pre-school to graduate-level education and reflects the diversity of government involvement in Indian education;
  • It focuses national attention on the educational needs of American Indian learners, reaffirming the Federal government’s special responsibility related to the education of American Indians and Alaska Natives; and
  • It provides services to American Indians and Alaska Natives that are not provided by the Bureau of Indian Affairs.

Concerns arose when Ketchikan Indian Community was applying for a grant in 2011. At that time, Ketchikan Indian Community reviewed previous records of public notices by the district of Indian Education Parent Advisory Committee meetings that were printed in the local Ketchikan Daily News paper for the period of September 2009 through March 2011. The review found that no public notices were given during that time period to ensure open consultation with parents of Indian children and teachers and a full opportunity for parents of Indian children to understand the programs and to offer recommendations.

After several years of inactivity, Ketchikan Indian Community stated in the letter that the Ketchikan School District did advertise an Indian Education Parent Advisory Committee meeting that was held April 30, 2012. This meeting was scheduled to meet the requirements as outlined in Title VII. However, one week prior to this meeting, KIC attempted to request a meeting change date since the Parent Advisory Committee was scheduled by the Ketchikan School District to be held the same night as KIC's Constitutional Reform meeting. Title VII mandates open consultation, and KIC suggested that the school district host the Parent Advisory Committee on a date that did not conflict with an important tribal meeting. KIC stated in their letter of concern, this request was rejected by the Ketchikan School District's Curriculum Director Linda Hardin because she had already informed the Committee of the meeting date.

However, KIC's educational leadership staff attended the Parent Advisory Committee meeting on April 30th -- a meeting which in itself raised more concerns. According to the letter to the School Superintendent, it was observed at that meeting that the Ketchikan School District was not following the requirements as set out for the composition and selection of the Indian Education Parent Advisory Committee. According to the letter, the meeting was convened by the District's Curriculum Director and was attended by two members of KIC's staff, two members representing the Organized Village of Saxman, one at-large community member, and five additional people who were presumably on the Indian Education Parent Advisory Committee. According to Section 7114(c)(4) of the Indian Education Act, the committee is to be composed of and selected by parents of Indian children, teachers in the schools, and Indian students in secondary school. Title VII also stipulates that the majority of the committee's members must be parents of Indian children. No introductions were made at the beginning of the meeting, but it was presumed by KIC that at least three of the five committee members were district employees.,

The meeting also raised concerns over the lack of transparency and accountability with graphs that were presented that compared performance between Native and White students, but which did not include a legend or axis headings for the "data" being presented providing the reader with no useful information. In ideal circumstances, the data being presented to the Parent Advisory Committee would assist the members and the public in evaluating whether Title VII funds were being used for their intended purpose.

According to KIC's letter, the Committee's role is to participate in the development of and approve programs that result from Title VII funding. The Ketchikan School District's Curriculum Director stated that the Title VII application had already been submitted by the time the Indian Education Parent Advisory Committee met on April 30th. According to Title VII, if a local educational agency that is otherwise eligible for this grant does not establish a committee as required for such a grand, an Indian tribe that represents not less than 1/2 of the eligible Indian children may apply for the grant.

Ketchikan Indian Community (KIC) stated in their letter of concern that it was their belief that they could apply for Title VII, Part A funds based on their findings. However, the Ketchikan Indian Community stated they have reason to believe that the Ketchikan Gateway Borough School District has not maintained the appropriate student eligibility forms that would verity this information.

Ketchikan Indian Community is implementing a project called Student Strength, Tribal Strength that is designed to empower parents and tribal leaders to more effectively advocate for the educational right of Indian children. Quoting the letter, there were two reasons this project was created. First KIC observed the Ketchikan School District to be out of compliance with its Title VII funds which are "to meet the unique educational and culturally related academic needs of American Indian and Alaska Native students, so that such students can meet the same challenging State student academic achievement standards as all other students are expected to meet". Secondly, as a partner in education, Ketchikan Indian Community wants to work with the Ketchikan School District and the Organized Village of Saxman to identify solutions to address the academic achievement of Native students, who under-perform when compared with their district peers.

According to the letter, Ketchikan Indian Community wants to bring the Ketchikan School District into compliance and recommended to the School Superintendent that the de facto Indian Education Parent Advisory Committee be replaced by the Indian Education Board that is currently being reconstituted through KIC's Student Strength, Tribal Strength project. The Indian Education Board has generated interest from a wide-variety of parents and is gaining support from other community Native organizations and stakeholders.

Other KIC recommendations are to work towards the development of a comprehensive policy that will outline the Ketchikan School District's commitment to Indian education and open consultation and for the school district to increase transparency in regards to its administration of federal funds provided to meet the unique and cultural needs of Indian students.

According to the letter, Ketchikan Indian Community stated their desire to partner with the Ketchikan School District to identify solutions that will lead to increased Native student achievement can not be underscored. "However, if KGBSD does not comply with Title VII, KIC will contact the U.S. Department of Education and explore the possibility of applying for Title VII funds."

The Indian Education Committee operated in Ketchikan for many years. Established in 1975, the program was initially run by KIC and Alaska Natives were hired to work in the school district with Native students under the Johnson O'Malley Act. In the late 80's and early 90's the School District funded a director and a secretary and was located in Ketchikan High School. The Indian Education Act advisory committee was operated independently as an advisory committee all those years up until 2003. Changes were made by the school district and positions for the director and secretary were no longer funded.

According to a memo written by School Board Member Susan Pickrell to Ketchikan School Board Members, there are 1200 children who are KIC Tribal members and of those over 100 children are preschool age, over 550 kindergarten to middle school age, and 548 are high school age.

In her memo dated August 22, Pickrell posed several questions one being when was Wallace's letter dated July 30th delivered to the School Superintendent and why did it take three weeks for the School Board to learn about these serious allegations.

According to the Ketchikan School District's time stamp, Wallace's letter was received by the Superintendent's Office on July 31, 2012.

In 1998, the Ketchikan Gateway Borough School District was sanctioned by the Alaska Department of Education for for noncompliance with Special Education federal requirements -- the sanctions lasted for five years. At that time the Ketchikan School District also had to answer questions posed by the Alaska Department of Education about the very concerns Wallace noted in her recent letter to the Superintendent -- the issue of whether the district is providing adequate representation and consultation with Alaska Natives and American Indians.





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