Hopi High seeks principal to meet needs of Native students, offers contract to Phoenix resident

POLACCA, ARIZ. — Hopi High School is getting closer to having a new principal.

The Hopi Jr/Sr High School Governing Board voted 4-1 to offer a contract to Jason Lobik from Phoenix. Interim Superintendent Alban Naha has been serving as interim principal.

Lobik is the board’s second choice. They first offered a contract to Oscar Ontiveros from Texas, but he declined because of health concerns.

The board voted to offer a contract to Lobik after two members of the screening committee and Naha recommended not to do so. Naha recommended the position remain open until March or April when there would be a larger pool to select from.

“We didn’t feel the other applicants could bring the staff and students together,” he said.

Ivan Sidney, a governing board member, said the principal position is critical.

“At some point, we will be asked by the Hopi Tribal Council how come there is no principal,” he said. “My recommendation is to go to the second person.”

Romalita Laban, the only board member to vote against offering Lobik the contract, said she agreed with Naha that the position should remain open. She said Hopi High School is not the only school lacking a principal.

“We can tell the Hopi Tribal Council that we have been actively recruiting,” she said. “The others didn’t present what we needed.”

Sidney said there was no guarantee that Lobik would take the job, but at least the board made a decision.

Naha said Lobek is inexperienced as an administrator and questioned how he would work with the staff.

Hopi Junior High Principal Lucille Sidney said she agreed with Naha and Laban that some of Lobik’s answers didn’t fit.

“We are looking for an individual who has experience and understands the needs of Native American schools,” she said.

The board voted 3-2 against keeping the job open until March or April. Valerie Koyaquaptewa, Steven Bahnimptewa and Sidney voted against the measure. Board President Edgar Shupla and Laban voted for the measure. Then the board voted 4-1 to offer the job to Lobik.

Poleyestewa elected, Bahnimptewa to retain seat

Naha announced the results of two elections. Laurel Poleyestewa defeated Laban for the First Mesa representative seat. Todd Honyaoma won the race in Hotevilla, 10-8, over Steven Bahnimptewa, but stepped down because of a conflict with the school’s policy: wife works at the school. Thus, according to the policy, Bahnimptewa retained his seat.

Board and special education plan workshop

In other board news, the school board voted to table some special education issues and hold a work session with Special Education Director Lenora Shirley Dec. 29-30 at a location yet to be determined.

The decision was made after two lively discussions. Shirley proposed paying three special education teachers $2,500 each to buy out their prep periods so they could teach classes during that time.

Koyaquatpewa questioned whether that amount should be lowered to $1,500 because that is what other staff would be paid for buying out their prep period. Business Manager Patrick Secakuku agreed with Koyaquaptewa that the money needs to be consistent for all staff. However, he said no other staff members currently buy out their prep period.

Sidney questioned why the salary they get wasn’t enough for the special education teachers. He said special education is highly regulated and there have been a lot of problems with special education in the past. He said Hopi Mission School had problems with finances and had to go to federal court.

“This makes me uneasy,” he said.

Sidney said that there are 198 special education students with Ds and another 170 with Fs.  He said it would be easier to give funds to special education workers if there were As and Bs.

“I’m not ready to vote on this. I don’t have all the information,” he said. “It seems to me this is about the staff, not about the students.”

Shirley said her staff is especially busy with the implementation of full inclusion into the classrooms. She said the general education teachers do not have enough knowledge to help these students.

Naha said it’s hard to find special education teachers just like it’s hard to find math and science teachers.

Sidney said he wants to hear from the high school and junior high school about special education issues.

“I’m just seeing one side of this and we need to communicate. This should be fair all the way across the board,” he said.

Naha gave the board background information on special education issues, stating that two years ago there was a report that caused a problem in the community.

“We needed to restructure to be in compliance,” he said. “We have seen progress.”

On the second special education issue, Shirley requested that special education teachers work Dec. 21-23 at a rate of $200 per day.

Shirley said she has only three special education teachers, and said most schools have their special education teachers come to work one or two weeks before or after everybody else to work on Individual Education Plans (IEPs) for special education students.

She said this is important because Hopi Jr/Sr High School is in corrective action due to past infractions.

The board agreed to discuss this at the special education workshop.

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