“This is long overdue,” and “We need to do this again” were the comments and overall feeling of participants at the first MREA American Indian (AMI) Advisory Committee meeting. The committee met with BIA School Superintendents, Tribal Nations Education Directors, and Dennis Olson, MDE Director of Indian Education, on July 15 at Northern Lights on Leech Lake.
The American Indian graduation rate is 42%, half of the white students’ graduation rate of 84% and the worst AMI graduation rate in the nation. The majority of Minnesota’s American Indian students (68%) go to school in Greater Minnesota.
In response, MREA’s Board of Directors established in 2013 the American Indians Students Committee to:
- Facilitate communications among the school districts and others serving AMI students, and
- Advocate for issues unique to districts serving significant numbers of AMI students.
John Varner, superintendent of Onamia, was elected committee chair. The initial committee members include:
- John Varner, Superintendent of Onamia (Chair, AMI Advisory Committee)
- Leah Monroe, Indian Education Coordinator, Northland Schools
- Lee Carlson, Teacher, St. James, member MREA Board of Directors
- Matt Grose, Superintendent, Deer River
- Rae Villebrun, Superintendent, Nett Lake
- Steve Cairns, Superintendent, Bagley
Dennis Olson, MDE Indian Ed Director, talked to the 15 educators. He outlined the three provisions of the great education session specifically related to AMI students:
- Indian Ed Director position was codified into law. MDE did not have an Indian Education Director for last 5 years and that will not be allowed to happen again by law.
- Tribal consultation language with TNEC.
- MDE is legally committed to holding an annual field hearing with tribal nations. Reports being prepared for MDE website.
Dennis went to describe the AMI Summit Sept 23, Maddens, MCC helping staff and pay for the event. There will be a keynote in the morning, a panel of practitioners and 9 afternoon breakout sessions. More information will be out shortly.
The participants listed issues in common, potential advocacy issues for the AMI Advisory Committee, and resources and speakers for districts serving AMI students. Details will be posted on the MREA AMI committee page as they are finalized.
The next meeting of the AMI Committee will be at the AMI Summit on Sept. 23.