Hopi schools garner federal recognition for academic success

Only tribe in Indian Country to meet Adequate Yearly Progress guidelines at all its schools

KYKOTSMOVI -- Hopi Jr/Sr High School and six other schools on the Hopi Reservation made Adequate Yearly Progress (AYP)--and have been recognized by the federal government for doing so.

AYP refers to the academic guidelines that federal schools must meet for reading, language arts, math and either graduation rates or attendance.

On Sept. 1, James Cason, associate deputy secretary for the U.S Department of Interior, first visited Hopi Day School and then the Hopi Tribal Council to praise the success of the Hopi schools.

Cason said when schools attain AYP it's not by accident but through hard, smart work.

"I would like to learn what you did and share that lesson with others. I'm proud of you guys," he told the administrators and board members from the seven Hopi schools who had packed into the library at Hopi Day School to hear him speak.

Hopi High School Principal Glenn Gilman said the two keys to success were local control and the opportunity to infuse money by becoming a grant school. He added

that another key is high retention of teachers, administrators and staff.

Paul Reynolds, superintendent of Hopi Jr/Sr High School, agreed that retention of staff is paramount, but he emphasized that the school has had partnerships

with the tribe and the Bureau of Indian Affairs that have also helped the students succeed in the classroom.

Cason emphasized that two-thirds of the184 federal schools did not make AYP.

"There is only one area where all the schools passed and that's right here," he said. "The one exception is right here. This hasn't happened anywhere else in the country. This is an outstanding achievement. The question is how can we export the success here to other parts of Indian country."

Cason said the Hopi schools are doing something well that the other schools aren't doing quite as well.

During the later Hopi Tribal Council session, Hopi Councilman Clifford Qotsaquahu thanked all the educators who teach on the Hopi Reservation.

Qotsaquahu joked that before President Bush's No Child Left Behind that "I was one of ones who was left behind."

On a more serious note, he questioned how AYP compares to national standards and added that something has to be done so that the doors open to universities in

America and other countries for Hopi students.

Cason sought input from the administrators on what makes their schools so good academically.

John Thomas, principal at Hopi Day School, said a strong supportive school board helps to make Hopi Day School successful.

Albert Sinquah, principal at Hopi Junior High, said the attitude of the staff and the support they get from the administration helps to make them successful in the classroom.

Donald Harvey, principal at Second Mesa Day School, said the school follows state standards, has a great staff and parent involvement.

Bruce Steele, principal at First Mesa Elementary School, said structured but shared decisions and community involvement are the keys at his school.

Council's concerns

During the Hopi Tribal Council meeting, Hopi Chairman Wayne Taylor Jr. noted that federal officials of Cason's stature don't usually come out to visit to hear their concerns.

Chairman Taylor told Cason and his entourage that Hopi is isolated. He said the good side is that it helps the 12,000-member strong tribe retain its culture. The downside, he said, is the isolation can be a barrier to a vibrant economy.

Worse, he added, it appears that the Mohave Generating Station will soon close down and take away the $6 million that the tribe receives annually from that

operation.

"We need to see how we can mitigate that impact," he said.

Chairman Taylor also spoke of the need for the federal government to replace the detention facilities.

"I would like to bring all federal parties to the table to discuss that," he said.

Cason responded that "we will work with you as much as we can for the best outcome for a juvenile facility."

Chairman Taylor presented Cason with a small butterfly maiden kachina.

The members of the Hopi Tribal Council used the meeting with Cason to inform him about their concerns where they hope the federal government can help.

Hopi Councilwoman Margie Talayumptewa said the tribe will soon obtain more than 200,000 additional acres from the Navajo-Hopi land settlement and will need

more funding for police to patrol the area. Cason responded that Chris Cheney just took charge of the BIA law enforcement responsibilities and any law enforcement issues should be directed to him.

Hopi Councilman Jerry Sekayumptewa reminded Cason that the federal government has trust responsibilities to all Indian tribes.

Hopi Councilman Phillip Quochytewa said the paving of Low Mountain Road needs to be addressed because school buses often get stuck there. He added that the

airstrip at Polacca needs improvement.

Cason said no matter how much money the Department of Interior has that it will never be enough to complete all the requested projects.

"But we'll work together the best we can with Hopi and all tribes," he said.

(Stan Bindell, former Observer editor, is journalism and radio teacher at Hopi High School.)

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