Tribe meets with Ignacio School District

Chairman Clement J. Frost and La Titia Taylor strategize with the education board on how to advance the teachings of the Ute language in schools.
Ignacio School District Superintendent, Rocco Fuschetto (left) and school board members discuss the current updates on the Ignacio schools.
Damon Toledo | The Southern Ute Drum
Damon Toledo | The Southern Ute Drum

The Ignacio School District, Southern Ute Board of Education, and Southern Ute Tribal Council met on Tuesday, August 23 to discuss updates regarding the upcoming school year including the opening of newer buildings, Ute language classes, meal plans, and sports.

“All the building projects are done. That’s a great relief, and it took us six years since we started,” stated superintendent Rocco Fuschetto. “I told the seniors and middle school [students] that this community took a big chance to put that question on the ballot to redo all our schools. We past everything by one vote. All the students, parents, and staff took a big chance to help us get the financials.”

Chairman Clement J. Frost added, “I think it’s important we continue to have that open dialogue and communication with the schools in regards to our youth. We appreciate the time that you set aside to have this little gathering between council and the board members. We look forward to the new school year and are willing to discuss future plans for the education of our young tribal members.”

The school board and Tribal Council discussed the importance of teaching the Southern Ute language in classes, with the possibility of it becoming a graduation requirement.

“We want students to learn the language,” commented Fuschetto. The curriculum is there, we just have to find someone who is committed – someone who can educate the students every day.”

La Titia Taylor from the Southern Ute Education Department stated that there wasn’t any enrollment in the fall for the Ute language class at Ignacio High School.

“It was then suggested that the Ute language class should be started at the middle school. An email was sent out to us, and it included Dr. Stacey Oberly to get some advice on how to continue the Ute language at the middle school. Through the summer, we went through various communications to find more Ute language speakers – however, they didn’t want to commit to it full term, because most of them are elders.”

Meal plans were a major concern discussed by the board, stating that the board has been writing off $10,000 to $20,000 in debts due families letting their meal account become overdrawn, which is set up in advance to pay for a number of meals. If an account goes below $10, then the district sends a reminder to the families via email, text, or phone calls. Rocco Fuschetto added that the school district has been more persistent in collecting the meal debts, which was disclosed to total around $5,000 currently owed.

“We strongly encourage families to pay their plans,” said Robert Schurman, board president. “It helps us get the students fed with a proper meal. It wouldn’t be fair for those who have to reduce to a peanut butter and jelly sandwich while others get something better.”

On the topic of sports, Rocky Cundiff, High School Assistant Principal, stated that participating athletes are growing by the numbers.

“One of the goals of Bobcat athletics is getting more involvement. Right now we’ve maxed out high school football. It’s been our biggest number in years, as well as volleyball. Our goal is to ensure core values. We also want to further educate our coaches – they seem like they’re all on board as we go forward as staff to help our students.”

Students who are eligible for sports will be graded on work ethic, which is stated, will be a bi-weekly follow up. Athletes who have poor grades will be out for two weeks.

Will Machallister, Igncaio Elementary Assistant Principal, brought up the idea of rewarding students with DOJO points for positive behavior.

“We’ve instilled a school wide rewards system that gives points for good behavior,” he said. “We have a store that students can use to buy things with what is called DOJO points, which include extra curricular activities, school supplies, movie coupons, etc. We’re looking to see that move forward.”

“You’ll see that the behavior data at the middle school has gotten better,” added Chris Dekay, Ignacio Middle School Principal. “Fewer write ups and fewer disruptive problems. The top three categories in excelling have gotten better. We hope to continue that trend.”

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