District 279’s American Indian education program doesn’t make the grade

Report to state says parents aren’t satisfied; district adopts action plan

Parents of Native American students in Osseo Area Schools say the district’s American Indian education program doesn’t meet their expectations.

In a mandatory report to the state, the district’s American Indian Education Parental Advisory Committee recently submitted a “resolution of non-concurrence.”

Students in District 279’s American Indian Education program pose for a photo during a pow-wow at North Hennepin Community College. (Sun file photo by Jonathan Young)
Students in District 279’s American Indian Education program pose for a photo during a pow-wow at North Hennepin Community College. (Sun file photo by Jonathan Young)

“The parents were not satisfied with the Indian education program,” committee chair Roxanne Flammond told the school board May 7.

Parents on the committee believe the district is falling short in communication, student racial identification, programming and out-of-school time activities.

The district must take the committee’s concerns seriously, because its authority to review the program has its basis in state law.

Statute requires the district to provide an American Indian education program if at least 10 Native American students enroll in a school district.

The district must also establish a parent advisory committee to review the program annually and submit a resolution of “concurrence” or “non-concurrence.” A resolution of non-concurrence means the committee is not satisfied with the program.

With a resolution of non-concurrence, parents must list reasons for the finding and make recommendations for improvement.

The Osseo Area Schools advisory committee identified the following areas of weakness and made suggestions for improvement:

• Committee members claim American Indian education teachers did not communicate effectively with them about issues such funding and programs. They recommended development of a clear chain of communication and more timely delivery of information.

• In the area of student racial identification, the committee complains that inaccuracies mean not all American Indian students are identified, which translates into less federal funding. According to the committee, half the federal funds for the program have been lost in the past three years as a result. Flammond said Indian students often aren’t identified because teachers make assumptions about students. The parents want to see a more thorough and consistent process for identifying native students.

• Committee members say parents are confused about what programs the district offers. Flammond said there is a special interest in the district’s drum and dance program because it is “a big part of community building.” But she said many parents don’t understand what services are available. The committee would like the district to make parents more aware of programs and to do more planning that will ensure continuation of the drum and dance program.

• In the area of out-of-school-time activities, the committee would like to see more opportunities for family activities in the evenings that support the native culture and community.

In response to the committee’s recommendations, the school board approved a resolution adopting a corrective action plan May 7.

The plan was presented by Tony Hudson, the district’s director of educational equity. It committed the district to working with the advisory committee to develop and implement the recommended changes.

“It is the intent of the district to work with the American Indian Education teachers and parents of American Indian students to remedy the concerns and move forward with fulfilling the goals of the American Indian Education program,” a memo from Hudson to the board said.

The board unanimously approved the corrective action plan.

  • Jan Charwood

    Thank you Mr. Young for bringing this important issue to the public. You have no idea how dilligent the small Parent Advisory Committee has worked on meeting, voting and discussing these issues that are as dear to our hearts as that of our sacred young ones. In tradional Native society, everyone YES, EVERYONE has a unique gift, talent or characteristic they possess. This gift is not to be squandered on selfish endeavors, but to be utilized for the good of the community. It is within this community that our young ones may find their purpose and hone their skills.
    As the current American Indian Parent Advisory Committee Secretary (1/3 of the PAC Executive Board) I would like to add how important knowledge and a sense of self are to a childs education. A clear sense of community is supported by the circle of Students, Educators and Family that Indian Education initiates. Just as parents participation in their childrens education as witnessed in the daily take home folder, reading and homework so it is with Our children, our history, culture and language.
    The only requirements for participating in the monthly class is that a student has a 506 form on file with District Enrollment Center. This form asks for some sort of Federally recognized Tribe information from the student, parent or even grandparent. Everyone, whether affiliated with a tribe or not are invited to participate in Drum and Dance, language classes and storytelling that is held by Osseo Indian Education. The districts biggest open community draw has been the annual cultural day held near the end of April each year at the Osseo Junior High and the Earth week activities held in conjunction with North Hennepin Community College.
    Some of the problems our school districts Indian Education program has faced is low participation, fewer Native people filling out a 506 form. There are many reasons for this, one being that parents do not want their children being discriminated against, especially if the children do not look Native. Another reason is that some families would like to leave the past where it is, behind them. Yet another reason Native American numbers in our district may be down is that like me and my family, when we enrolled our eldest we were sent a 506 form from Enrollment to fill out. With my second child being enrolled in the district, I have yet to see a 506 form. One family who recently transferred into our district happened to contact a parent of our Native Community, our PAC Chairperson Roxanne Flammond. This parent did not know about Osseo’s Indian Education or about filling out the 506 form until Roxanne told her of its importance.
    Our Indian Educators as well as myself have talked with the District Enrollment office about the 506 forms. Ms. Flammond believes that people are slipping through the cracks due to the way they look. Most of our community are multi-racial and not all have braids or wear beaded clothing.
    I do believe your article, Mr. Young will do much to assist Indian Education of the Osseo School District by educating those that read this paper. I invite you and all others interested to contact myself or any members of Indian Education, the Parent Advisory Committee or Educational Equity with further questions. I look forward to subsequent articles in the “Press” speaking of the progress of Indian Education and the spike in participation!

    I can be reached at [email protected]

    Chi Miigwitch! (Many Thanks,)

    Parent Advisory Committee Secretary,

    Jan Charwood