By Patrick Winderl/Havre Daily Newsemail@example.com
The Havre school board on Tuesday night approved a plan to augment the district's American Indian education program by hosting staff workshops on American Indian education issues and establishing an advisory council to assist the school board.
Called the Indian Education for All Action Plan, the plan is the district's framework for complying with the 1999 Indian Education for All Act.
The state law requires school districts to review their curricula "to ensure the inclusion of the distinct and unique cultural heritage of the American Indians." It also requires the school board to pass a written policy incorporating Indian culture into district education goals.
Of Havre Public Schools' 1,966 students, 320 are Native American - 16 percent of the total enrollment.
District officials said HPS is among the first districts in the state to develop a local plan to comply with the Indian Education for All Act. The district's plan is based on the model developed by the state Board of Public Education, which is chaired by HPS Superintendent Kirk Miller.
The plan's key components include holding staff workshops. HPS assistant superintendent Dennis Parman, who is director of the district's American Indian education program, said he wants to focus on two areas of professional development for teachers: one to give teachers better background in teaching American Indian students, and one to ensure accuracy of curriculum content that deals with American Indians.
To help achieve the latter goal, the district plans to establish an advisory council consisting of tribal elders, college professors and parents of American Indian students.
The advisory council will make recommendations to the school board about materials and curriculum, Parman said.
"There has been a lot of commercially produced material that has overgeneralized the history and culture of American Indians to the point that when we look at our students, that material becomes inaccurate," Parman said Tuesday afternoon.
The council will look at the authenticity and relevance of educational materials to ensure historical accuracy.
"Who better than our local elders to advise us on some of those things?" Miller said today.
The Indian Education for All Action Plan will supplement the district's American Indian education program, which has existed for more than a decade.
The program uses federal Title VII dollars, which are earmarked specifically for Native American students. Last year, HPS received $87,000 in Title VII funds.
The money was used to hire full-time tutors at each of the district's five schools and to support culture clubs at the middle school and high school. The district also hired a part-time employee to coordinate the program.
The tutors are available to Native American students who have been identified as needing extra help with schoolwork. Some of the money is also used to pay for school supplies for Native American students who have a financial need.
The culture clubs, each of which has between 10 and 30 members, meet at least four times a school year. Activities include listening to guest speakers, traveling to powwows and working on community projects.
Title VII funds will also be used to implement the Indian Education for All Action Plan, though administrators said they do not expect the plan to be expensive to implement. Most of the elements in the plan can be done with little or no cost, such as continuing to support American Indian Heritage Day within schools, seeking to recruit and retain Native American teachers, and reviewing curriculum and materials.
"Most of it has to do with administrative or management issues. It's very organizational," Miller said.
The district will continue existing elements in its American Indian education program, including the tutoring service and culture clubs.
"All of that will continue. There is no plan to change that model because it is working well for us," Miller said.
The district is hosting a preliminary advisory council meeting on Thursday night. During the meeting, Parman said, he hopes to solidify the goals of the advisory council as well as identify people interested in serving on it. The meeting is scheduled for 6:30 p.m. at Havre Middle School.
Invitations have been sent to people identified by district administrators as potential members. Anyone interested in participating is encouraged to attend.