School officials, parents discuss support for Native American students

As part of the Tuesday, Oct. 29 Indian policies and procedures meeting at the Ignacio Middle School, several Southern Ute students gave a presentation on the new facility.
Ace Stryker | Southern Ute Drum

Ignacio School District officials met with local parents Tuesday, Oct. 29 at the Ignacio Middle School for an annual discussion on Indian policies and procedures.

The meeting is a requirement for districts that claim students living on Indian lands for the purpose of receiving Impact Aid funding from the U.S. Department of Education, as Ignacio does. In her opening remarks, Southern Ute Education Department Director La Titia Taylor said the district has made great strides in recent years.

“The goal that I have is to continue to work with the school district … [to] improve attendance for our kids, their academics,” she said. “I can really see the improvements, and I enjoy being a part of that.”

Superintendent Rocco Fuschetto said a new entity within the district, the Higher Expectations Committee, has been focusing on improving attendance among Native American students.

“The Native Americans had the highest attendance rate at the elementary school this past year,” he said, adding that the district has committed to doing everything in its power to support students – including, if necessary, taking parents to court for educational neglect.

Naomi Russell, a parent and member of the district’s Johnson-O’Malley Committee, said the district could further help students by providing lessons in Native American culture for its teachers.

“I would like to see our Anglo teachers have better cultural training,” she said. “I feel a disconnect sometimes when I talk to those teachers. I feel like they don’t really understand the classroom.”

Rocky Cundiff, chairman of the JOM Committee – which supports Native American students by, among other things, supplying tutors, paying fees, and providing school supplies – urged more parents to get involved in the program.

“We need some more members if we can get them,” he said.

Fuschetto also addressed another hot topic: the remains discovered buried at the site of the forthcoming Ignacio Elementary School. He said they will soon be relocated to a local cemetery, where they will be buried in a common grave marked by a monument.

“When we rebury them, there will be 21 individual boxes, and they’ll be numbered, and there will be records kept,” he said.

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