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Canku Ota

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(Many Paths)

An Online Newsletter Celebrating Native America


August 23, 2003 - Issue 94


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New Hopi Principal Believes in Extra-Curricular Activities

by Stan Bindell Gallup Independent

Albert SinquahPOLACCA, ARIZ. - Albert Sinquah, the new principal at Hopi Junior High School, believes student involvement in extra-curricular activities can be the key to student success.

"Extra curricular activities are incentives for kids to stay in school and keep up their studies," he said. Sinquah took the job in July after Hopi Junior High Principal Glenn Haven took a job at Window Rock High School. Sinquah had been principal at Keams Canyon Boarding School for six years before taking the post at Hopi Junior High.

Sinquah said student involvement in sports, band, student government and other activities is important. "Kids need to use up their energy," he said.

Sinquah, who is Hopi, is a firm believer in the 'no pass, no play' rule, but he also feels it is the school's responsibility to help the students improve academically.

"Each child can learn when given the opportunity. Too often, we let kids fall through the cracks. It's up to us to identify the needs and give assistance and encouragement to the students," he said.

Sinquah, 58, said his success in education is due to his involvement with band and other clubs.

"When I was going to Phoenix Indian High School, I stayed in the dorm, so I joined every club to get out of the dorm," he said.

Sinquah was always interested in ranching and rodeos, but music was Sinquah's first love. He played in the high school's band and choir, but eventually played professionally.

Sinquah played du-wop music with the Stratotones before playing country music with the Dynamics and the Klansman. The Klansman continue to play today as they have played periodically for the past 30 years.

"I was interested in band because I believe music is an integral part of Hopi life," he said.

Sinquah attended music camp every summer for six years during his junior high and high school years.

"This convinced me that parental involvement is crucial because the booster club raised the money for the music camps. That's how powerful parental involvement can be," he said.

Sinquah hopes to see more parental involvement at Hopi Junior High School.

"Without parental involvement, it's difficult. We want parents involved. We want them to come visit, and the kids would appreciate it," he said.

As the superintendent of the Hopi BIA in the mid-1980s, Sinquah helped plan and see Hopi Junior/Senior High School built.

"I never dreamed I'd be back here," he said.

His main goals include a unified curriculum for Hopi schools and seeing Hopi Junior High School improve so it loses its 'underperforming' status.

"I would like to be involved in the process of setting up a junior high program that's consistent with the elementary programs so when a student comes here we know what to expect. Now, the gap is so big that it's difficult," he said.

Sinquah said the principals throughout the reservation have made the commitment to standardize the curriculum.

"Then we can really serve the Hopi High School program. At the moment, we're doing the best we can but it's difficult and it's the students who suffer," he said.

Sinquah emphasized that he can't do it himself as he needs the help of the tribe, the elementary schools on the Hopi Reservation and Hopi High School.

Last year, the Arizona Department of Education labeled Hopi Junior High School as 'underperforming' because of some of its test scores. Sinquah said he sees this as a challenge to improve.

Sinquah said test scores will be monitored quarterly instead of annually.

"The state's watching us. If we don't produce then we'll be under corrective actionand we don't want to be there. I have faith that it won't come to that," he said.

Sinquah said Hopi Junior High will focus on reading since that seems to be its weakest area. He noted that reading is a problem at most of the Hopi elementary schools.

"It's related to having second-language homes. Many students are stuck between the two languages, but we'll try to bring up their competencies," he said.

After serving as superintendent of Hopi BIA Education in Keams Canyon in the 1980s, he was transferred to Gallup. One year later the BIA wanted to transfer him to Washington D.C., and he felt that was too far from home.

So, Sinquah taught first grade at Pinon for one year, kindergarten at Jeddito for two years, served as assistant principal at Jeddito for three years and principal at Keams Canyon Boarding School for six years before taking the job at Hopi Junior High.

Born and raised in Keams Canyon, Sinquah graduated from Phoenix Indian High School before earning a BA in elementary education with a minor in music from Northern Arizona University. He later received his endorsement in early childhood and an MA in educational leadership from NAU.

Sinquah, a rancher by trade, and his wife Violet have five children and 12 grandchildren.

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