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.