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Canku Ota

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(Many Paths)

An Online Newsletter Celebrating Native America


March 20, 2004 - Issue 109


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School News


gathered by Vicki Lockard


The information here will include items of interest for and about Native American schools.
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Navajos Seek Control of Education

FARMINGTON — The Navajo Nation is studying a proposal to create its own board of education, administer its own criterion-referenced achievement tests and license its own teachers to form an umbrella over the 120 public, charter and Bureau of Indian Affairs schools reservationwide.

The Navajo Council’s Education Committee plans to bring forth major legislation to the 88-member Navajo Council at its summer or fall session. If passed it would change the face of education across the 27,000 square-mile reservation by putting Navajos in charge of their own children’s education.

It would also mark the first significant change to the Navajo Nation Title 10 Education Code since 1984.

“We would have educational standards that would be equal or above the three states,” Leland Leonard, new acting director of the Navajo Nation Division of Diné Education, said Tuesday. “We as a nation have to develop a statelike education department.”

The legislation would provide one set of standards for Navajo students who often are shuffled back and forth between state schools, charter schools and BIA schools, Leonard added.

The proposal calls for greater control of the nation’s 65 charter and Bureau of Indian Affairs schools spread across New Mexico, Arizona and Utah. Further, the nation would seek stronger memorandums of agreement with public school districts covering approximately 55 schools reservationwide.

“Those contracts would be revised to reflect what they’re not doing,” said Mary Helen Creamer, with the Tribal Education Department in the Division of Diné Education, referring to the bilingual education issue.

The proposal was part of a series of changes to the education code during a Navajo Council Education Committee public work session held Monday and Tuesday at the Farmington Civic Center.

Division of Diné Education officials, Navajo Vice President Frank Dayish Jr., Navajo school board members, Navajo Head Start and others attended in addition to committee members and a packed audience.

“It is meant to bring all the (educational) systems under the Navajo Nation,” said Navajo Council Delegate Katherine Benally, a committee member.

“We are going to be determining testing for our Navajo children. Although it says this in Title 10 we’re not exercising it to its fullest extent. This new legislation will do that,” she said.

Navajo President Joe Shirley Jr. appointed Leonard as acting Division of Education director March 1.

“I think that Title 10 encompasses all schools on the reservation. That’s our responsibility. We’re a sovereign nation,” Leonard said.

The Navajo Nation needs time to implement benefits of the New Mexico Indian Education Act passed by the New Mexico Legislature one year ago, Dayish said, in response to Tuesday’s Daily Times article “Navajo Nation ignores act — plan for more bilingual education teachers unheeded.”

The Navajo Nation was taking action by holding the work session and proposing legislation to control its educational systems, he added.

By Jim Snyder/The Daily Times

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