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Canku Ota

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(Many Paths)

An Online Newsletter Celebrating Native America


December 29, 2001 - Issue 52


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Charter Members of Change

credits: Logo Copyright © 2000 All Tribes American Indian Charter School. All Rights Reserved
Logo Copyright © 2000 All Tribes American Indian Charter SchoolRINCON INDIAN RESERVATION -- The All Tribes American Indian Charter School is about as untraditional as schools get.

There's rarely homework. Students don't start class until 9:05 a.m., compared with 8 a.m. or earlier at most other schools. And the 34-student school's principal acts as bus driver, teacher and cafeteria cook.

The purpose of the sixth-through-eighth-grade school is to address the needs of American Indian students from the five reservations in the Valley Center region and to cut the middle school and high school dropout rates.

About 2.5 percent of American Indian students in San Diego County dropped out of high school in the 1999-2000 school year, according to the California Department of Education. That's out of 4,413 American Indian or Alaskan native students in the county, which is about 0.9 percent of all students. The dropout rate was the fourth-highest among minorities, after those for blacks, Latinos and Pacific Islanders.

School founders Mary Ann Donahue and Michelle Parada say they have tried to structure the school to accommodate American Indian families; all but one of their students are of American Indian descent.

"Homework is not good for these guys," said Donahue, the school's principal. "They have extenuating circumstances, caring for siblings or invalid elders at home. We just give them what they need to know in class."

The later starting time allows students to come to class focused instead of sleepy, Donahue said.

In the two months that the school has been open, the students appear to be buying into the concept. While many used to skip class at least once a week at previous schools, Parada said, the attendance rate at the new school is 98 percent and enrollment is growing.

Many students say they feel more comfortable at the school than others they have attended, in part because many know their classmates.

Jennifer Kolb, an eighth-grader, said 11 of the 34 students at the school are distant cousins who live on other reservations.

"I get along with these students a lot better," said Jennifer. "There was a lot of prejudice toward Indians and Latinos at Valley Center."

So far, the students say, they don't mind that their 4-acre campus, on the northern end of the reservation, consists of five trailers and a patch of dirt covered by mulch.

It won't always be that way, Parada said. The school will add a grade each year, until it enrolls students in sixth through 12th grades.

The charter school is a public facility that receives the same per-pupil funding from the state as other schools, but is exempt from many state and local education regulations.

The students, who attend math, agriculture, science, English, history and culture classes, are grouped by ability levels rather than age.

The key behind the school, its three full-time teachers agree, is keeping students interested in school.

Teacher Donna Krager quit her job teaching fourth grade at Knox Elementary School in San Diego to work at the charter school and help what she calls the "forgotten minority."

"Many of these students have been told they are stupid; they've had such bad educational experiences," Krager said. "We approach them from a different angle. We talk to them about going to college and we lay out all their options."

All Tribes American Indian Charter School

The Mission of the All Tribes American Indian Charter School is: To meet the academic, social, cultural and developmental needs of the Native American students, and all students, in an environment that respects the integrity of the individual student and diverse cultures and knowledge. Additionally, to create educational partnerships among teachers, students, parents, tribal elders and the wider community which includes individuals, businesses, institutions and cultural organizations.

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  Canku Ota is a free Newsletter celebrating Native America, its traditions and accomplishments . We do not provide subscriber or visitor names to anyone. Some articles presented in Canku Ota may contain copyright material. We have received appropriate permissions for republishing any articles. Material appearing here is distributed without profit or monetary gain to those who have expressed an interest. This is in accordance with Title 17 U.S.C. section 107.  

Canku Ota is a copyright © 2000, 2001, 2002 of Vicki Lockard and Paul Barry.


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