WINDOW ROCK, Ariz. - Navajo Nation Department of Diné Education (NNDDE) officials say work on a program to improve education of Navajo children and enable more of them to enter colleges and universities is progressing on schedule.
Key to the effort is an agreement between the Navajo Nation and Arizona State University (ASU) to establish the NNDDE as an Arizona State Education agency.
Superintendent Andrew Tah, Assistant Superintendent Tim Benally and other NNDDE officials launched the project in a 2009 meeting with ASU officials. They met most recently on Oct. 12 at ASU and plan to meet again in December in Flagstaff.
"With new development of STEP and mini grants to be provided by the federal government, we will be able to move more strategic focus of implementing tasks that enable our sovereignty right to take control of our education system to ensure that our high school graduates will be college(sic) readiness," said Tah.
President of the Navajo Nation Board of Education Jimmy C. Begay said the board would like to see school administrators, teachers and paraprofessional staff that work with children trained on research based teaching materials, curriculum and the Common Core State Standards
"School boards, administrators, and teachers are the key people to make the learning environment happen at all schools," Begay said. "We are in it together and still have a lot of work to do. This includes teachers, administrators, school boards, parents, educators and Division of Dine Education and Navajo Nation Board of Education."
In 2005, through CJY-37-05, the Navajo Nation Council established the Diné Sovereignty in Education Act. It is an important step in establishing the Navajo Nation Department of Diné Education as a State Education Agency. In May 2009, both the Education and the Intergovernmental Relations Committees of the Navajo Nation Council supported and approved the Intergovernmental Agreement.
In response to the approval of the Intergovernmental agreement, both committees, the Department of Diné Education established a core group to work together in subcommittees to implement the goals of the Agreement. The Executive Committee includes:
Jimmy C. Begay, Navajo Nation Board of Education
Jonathan Hale, Health, Education and Human Services Committee
Superintendent Andrew M. Tah, Department of Diné Education
Diane Humetewa, Arizona State University
Jay Blanchard, Arizona State University
Delia Saenz, Arizona State University
Sub-Committee Chairs include:
Assistant Superintendent Timothy Benally, Department of Diné Education
Kalvin White, Science, Math & Technology, Department of Diné Education
Rose Graham, Scholarship & Finance Aid, Department of Diné Education
Sharon Singer, Navajo Head Start, Department of Diné Education
Dee McKerry, NCA, Department of Diné Education
Begay said teaching the Navajo language and culture is vitally important, at home or in school.
"A lot of our children do not know who they are simply because the parents are not teaching their children the importance of our language and culture," he said. "Children need guidance and direction so they are disciplined enough to attend school every day and learn to the best of their ability."
Those in favor of the intergovernmental agreement say it will improve academic achievements for Navajo students develop qualified teachers and school administrators to serve the Navajo Nation.
Begay added that the direct beneficiaries of the agreement are Navajo students, teachers, school administrators, Navajo families and the entire Navajo Nation.
"Education is our strength as an individual and as a Nation," he said. "Education is the corner stone to building a strong independent Nation. The Navajo Nation needs quality school administrators and teachers to make a difference in providing quality education for our children."