Navajo-Hopi Nations,Flagstaff & Winslow News
Sun, April 05

Distance Learning Network debuts

Courtesy photo
NATIVE Superintendent Karen Lesher, left, and Arizona State Rep. Ann Kirkpatrick in Kayenta Nov. 29 for the inauguration of NATIVEÕs Distance Learning Network.

Courtesy photo NATIVE Superintendent Karen Lesher, left, and Arizona State Rep. Ann Kirkpatrick in Kayenta Nov. 29 for the inauguration of NATIVEÕs Distance Learning Network.

KAYENTA -- Last week voc-ed students in Chinle, Ganado, Pinon, Red Mesa and Window Rock were able to watch as Clyde MacBride, Monument Valley High agriculture instructor, demonstrated how to use ultra sound to determine if a sheep is pregnant.

This was one of several classroom demonstrations staged on Nov. 29, as the Northeast Arizona Technological Institute of Vocational Education (NATIVE) held the formal dedication of its new D53 Video Conferencing Distance Learning Network, the first video interactive educational network of its kind on the Navajo Nation.

NATIVE's eight high school branch sites serve about 3,600 Navajo Nation students.

Although, not online yet, NATIVE Superintendent Karen Lesher, said the two remaining sites, Tuba City and Valley Sanders, should be part of the network in one or two months.

During the trial run, Lesher stressed the tremendous new opportunities the interactive distance learning network will offer NATIVE students as actual classes in business management and administrative services and agriculture get underway in January.

The total estimated cost of the network is $2,884,821 with $2,450,245 resulting from federal E-rate funding and the remaining $434,576 coming from the Arizona Department of Education.

Basically, Education Rate or E-Rate funding resulted from a regulatory decision the Federal Communications Commission (FCC) made on May 7, 1997. The FCC decision meant that starting in 1998, schools and libraries were eligible for up to $2.25 billion a year in discounts for a wide range of telecommunication services.

The E-Rate is the discount that schools and libraries will receive for the acquisition of telecommunication services. Eligible schools and libraries (determined by free and reduced lunch percentages) can receive discounts of 20-90 percent on telecommunication services, internet access and internal connections necessary for deploying technology into the classroom.

"E-Rate has made the NATIVE VCDL DS3 network a reality. We could not have afforded it without E-Rate," Lesher said.

She said Preston Webster from Northern Arizona University is in the process of training NATIVE staff regarding the best practices of engaging students remotely.

"As soon as we have the proper agreements in place, we plan to offer a certified nursing assistant program from the Community College of Eastern Utah," Lasher said. "Several of our NATIVE board members have been very supportive of the Distance Learning Network, including Marie Allen at the Widow Rock site. She spoke very positively about how the program will impact our students and, pointing out that she went through a distance learning certification program at the University of New Mexico."

The NATIVE District will use the VCDL network to share its high school Career and Technical Education (CTE) curriculum between branch sites, expand CTE educational opportunities for its students at its eight branch sites providing college-level concurrent enrollment and dual credit offerings, and enhance the integration of academic standards into the CTE curriculum. As the VCDL network continues to develop, it will be expanded to include team teaching instruction, additional CTE program offerings, student project development, professional instructor development and administrative training opportunities.

"This is a momentous and vital project for our children and our schools, requiring the support not only of our school sites and community members, but also our partner vendors. The remoteness of our area requires a commitment to our vision not only from our branch site high schools but also from our partner companies such as Frontier Communications, BNI Solutions, and Computer Assets who have helped us to identify, design and implement the hardware and software. Frontier Communications has been committed to providing the necessary network bandwidth to the NATIVE District in order to support the expansion and enhancement of our Career and Technical educational programs."

The formation of NATIVE District was authorized by a public vote under the Arizona legislation of 1990, which allowed districts to combine efforts to offer Career Technical programs. In November 2002, seven northeast Arizona district governing boards placed the formation of NATIVE as a public school district on the ballots of their constituents.

Voters in all seven Navajo Reservation districts approved the formation of the joint vocational district.

Tuba City Unified joined in July 2005. NATIVE District received Arizona legislative authorization for funding beginning July 1, 2003. The NATIVE District Governing Board includes President Ernest Tsosie (Chinle); Vice-President Ambrose Shepherd (Ganado); Marie Allen (Window Rock): Lavina Smith (Kayenta); Shannon Tooke (Tuba City); Mary Tom (Pinon); Wallace Todachecny (Red Mesa); and Margaret Yazzie (Sanders).

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