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Alaska Native Sisterhood Camp 70 displeased with JSD

Group still has concerns with use of Native funds

Posted: Wednesday, January 12, 2011

The Alaska Native Sisterhood Camp 70 still has concerns about how the Juneau School District used Transition II funds, among other funds designated to help Alaska Native students, to pay for a program that did not focus on serving those students.

Freda Westman, president of the camp, gave background on the complaint the group filed with the district. The board reviewed the complaint and findings of the complaint committee (which consisted of three board members).

The Transitions II grant, which comes through the U.S. Department of Education, Indian Education sector, was to be largely spent on assisting Native youth education.

The district received these funds into the school year two years ago, and instead of implementing their first plan — which they couldn't due to staffing and timing — they started AVID (Advancement Via Individual Determination).

The sisterhood raised issue because AVID did not place a focus on serving Alaska Native students. There was also concern over the process of changing how grant funds are to be used and how they are overseen.

“Our concern is how the district changed the grant and repurposed the funds for an AVID program,” Westman said. “When we first heard about the use of the grant for this program it was February of last year. We pursued getting more information from the school district. It took us through June to get the information we needed. It has taken through December to get it through the board.”

Westman also was concerned that they received a copy of the complaint recommendation at midnight on Dec. 14 — the same day of the regular board meeting at which the recommendation was discussed. Due to that short time frame, none of the members of the camp attended the meeting. Board chairwoman Sally Saddler had expressed concern that none of the members were present at the December meeting.

Maryanna Goodwin, member of the camp and a parent, was also concerned about timeliness. She said on Dec. 12 or 13, she hand-delivered an extensive document to three school officials, one which included a lot of investigative work regarding Alaska Native-related grants. The document included communications and e-mails between the group and administrators.

She said their concerns aren't solely the Transition II grant, but also how all Alaska Native grants are handled.

Lorraine DeAsis, parent of four, expressed concerns about AVID and cultural integration.

“Two of my students in middle school are in the AVID program,” she said. “I am supportive of the AVID program, but I do have concerns about the small class size and the small number of students being served. I also am a little confused about AVID versus Early Scholars. As far as I can tell we already had it in Early Scholars.”

DeAsis was also concerned with cutting of cultural programs.

“I was very excited about the cultural programs we had,” she said. “I am disappointed they have been canceled. In the middle school there used to be a class called cultural leadership. They still have one, but it's not the cultural class they had. Not the weaving and moccasin making and the connect students need.”

She said her youngest son, who is in Harborview, struggled with school getting C’s and D’s and had behavior problems at home until he got into the cultural programs offered at the school. Now he’s getting A’s and B’s and willingly does his homework.

“(It’s) because of the program, the cultural connection and the whole focus at Harborview, it does make a difference,’ she said. “We do need the cultural programs expanding, not cut. We’re dealing with dropout rates, suicide rates — all kinds of things like that. I’m not against AVID, it’s a good monitoring, self-check kind of thing, but it can’t be at the expense of cultural programs.”

The board also heard commentary from Juneau-Douglas High School students on Next Generation, as well as a statement from the JDHS Site Council, and had a first reading of the 2011-2012 school year, which will be reported in later Empire articles this week.

• Contact reporter Sarah Day at 523-2279 or at sarah.day@juneauempire.com.



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