By MAGGIE MCMURRAY
Moapa Valley Progress
A group of CCSD administrators, including Superintendent Pat Skorkowsky, traveled to Moapa last Monday to meet with leaders from regional Paiute tribes and discuss the needs of native students. In attendance were school administrators, teachers, and students from local schools as well as concerned parents.
The main focus of the meeting was that the educational team over the native students had refused to sign off on this year’s Title VI grant. Because of this the school district did not receive that funding that provides educational resources for descendants of Native Americans.
The main complaint from tribal leaders was that the CCSD receives the grant money every year, but oversees its use without input from tribal groups. For the last several years, the tribal parent association has met with CCSD to explain their needs and suggest how the grant money should be used. But they said they have seen very few requests granted and very little progress toward their goals.
This year tribal leaders said they had simply refused to sign off on the grant until they have some input over how the money is spent.
Moapa Educational Support Center (MESC) Project Facilitator Della Frank provided evidence that the MESC is severly underfunded, various laws and policies which guarantee help for American Indian/Alaska Native Students.
Frank specifically cited CCSD Policy 1311 which assures tribal and parental involvement in the education of children on tribal lands. But Frank assserted that neither parents nor tribal leaders have any local control over the grant money to which the MESC is entitled. In fact, lists of needs compiled by the tribe from the first meeting with CCSD over four years ago remains unaddressed, Frank said.
Due to lack of funding, the tutoring program held at the MESC that has traditionally been available for all Moapa Valley students was not funded at all this year, Frank said.
Petra Wilson from the Indian Opportunities Program echoed what Frank said. She pointed out that Indian students have distinct education needs. However, she and others feel that these needs are largely ignored by the district.
“No one at CCSD wants to listen because there are so many people,” Wilson said. “We are tired of being the stepchild in this district and being ignored and left out.”
“The Impact Aid Policy took away our power,” she added. “Indian education needs to be separated from the policy because we are a diverse group made up of various tribes and various situations.”
Wilson concluded with the observation that often CCSD does only what is most convenient and not necessarily what is best for kids. “We will continue to fight for our kids and continue to move forward,” she said.
Skorkowsky defended CCSD, saying, “I agree to disagree with Petra Wilson. CCSD never puts the needs of adults ahead of children. We do need to make sure we are working together. Although we have worked together in the past, we are nowhere near where we need to be.”
Skorkowsky kept his comments very short, relying on school board trustee Linda Young to do much of the speaking for CCSD. Young appeared sympathetic to the arguments made and listened carefully to the concerns.
“The greatest gift we can give our children is our belief in them,” she said. “We believe in our children on the reservation. We believe in our children off the reservation. Our children are our future.”
Young did, however, assert that CCSD trustees were overworked. She explained that each of them are in charge of 60-plus schools. She also explained that the CCSD budget crunch was real.
Logandale resident Lindsey Dalley, who serves on the Moapa Valley Community Education Advisory Board (MVCEAB)pointed out that Moapa Valley has three distinct cultures: native, rural MV culture, and CCSD culture. He urged CCSD officials to work with Frank because “she is able to connect with and talk across all three cultures.”
Dalley spent the rest of his comments stressing the need for site-based decision making, pointing out that rural equity includes Native American education. The recent reversal of previous rural equity allotments has meant the loss of programs in schools, which, in turn, have also greatly affected native students, he said.
MVHS student Sierra Reel, who is a Moapa Band member, was one of a few students who chose to speak at the meeting. She became emotional as she pointed out that, as a senior she has not been able to get guidance and college prep that she needs from her school.
“If it weren’t for my tribe, I wouldn’t get to go to college,” she said. “I feel as if I have received no help at all from my school in this area. It is not just me, but other students as well. We don’t even know the steps we need to take to apply or to get scholarships because there are no counselors to help us.”
Dalley pointed out that Reel was the face of rural inequity and cutting funding in rural schools. MVHS used to have three full-time counselors but has had to cut back to just one due to budget cuts, he explained. This leaves students, both native and non-native, without the counseling and college guidance they need, he said.
Tribal Council Chairman, Darren Daboda, stressed that it is the responsibility of school officials and teachers to learn the culture of native tribes and spread cultural awareness throughout the schools. This could help end the discrimination he feels still occurs toward native students, he said.
“We can build on this meeting,” Daboda said. “This is a start. It can impact our kids and help them feel more included. ”
No decisions or changes were made at the meeting. But tribal officials were optimistic that re-opening dialog between CCSD and the tribes was a positive start.
Frank said that she would continue the battle for more input on where their money is spent.
“Any communication is good,” Frank said. “We have to be transparent to keep moving forward. In that sense, I feel the evening went well.”
Daboda said, “Our tutoring program didn’t get funded this year so we’re just looking for solutions. We’re hoping to have quarterly meetings (with the district) from now on.”