letter to the editor

Juneau schools have real leadership

Posted: Thursday, January 17, 2002

I want to publicly and sincerely thank Juneau School District Superintendent Gary Bader and his staff for hosting a follow-up meeting of folks who attended the Alaska Native Education Summit in Anchorage. There was a lot of talk and motivational speechmaking at the summit about acting now to solve ongoing problems of low educational achievement among Native students. And Native educators with whom I work have begun to organize in Southeast to coordinate action plans, share resources, and push forward. But what I didn't expect was the kind of forethought and willingness to roll up the sleeves and get to work that was shown by the Juneau District leadership.

Of course this is only the beginning of a long journey to change our schools and educational systems. But it is a good beginning; one that started with a common belief that there are things we can do immediately, and one that didn't flinch at the prospect of clearing more difficult hurdles in the future.

We talked about the possibility of a grade 11-14 Alaska Native Charter School in cooperation with the Southeast Alaska Tribal College. We discussed the need for more Tlingit language classes, and increasing the presence of Alaska Native culture throughout the curriculum. The value of placing learning and teaching more squarely in the context of this magnificent land in which we live came through in several comments. We focused on the social needs of Native kids and on ways to get parents involved in their children's education.

I'm hard pressed to think of an area we didn't cover at this meeting. And I certainly can't take the space that would be needed to list them all here. But I did want to take this opportunity to let the Juneau and Douglas communities know that the school district is front and center among those in Alaska that are taking serious and immediate steps to improve the lives of our Native children. Thanks Gary. And be sure to thank your dedicated staff. Now let's get to work!

Dr. Ted A. Wright, President

Southeast Alaska Tribal College

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