Improving Indian schools remains big challenge
Apr. 20, 2004
OACOMA, S.D. - American Indian schools need money, better-trained teachers and a focus on language and culture, Indian educators told state Education Secretary Rick Melmer on Monday.
Those attending the Indian Education Summit also said many schools for Indian children are falling apart, that more education technology is needed and that an American Indian Research Institute should be created to gather solid information about Indian education.
Melmer asked participants to conclude the meeting Tuesday by identifying a few major priorities that could be tackled in the coming year.
South Dakota should strive to become first in the nation in the amount of money it directs to all areas of education, said Lowell Amiotte of Rapid City, a member of a subcommittee that listed money as the first of four recommendations.
"We want the best and the brightest teaching our children," Amiotte said. "We have to pay for them."
Amiotte said teachers should have more than a three-hour course of American Indian studies to qualify for a certificate. His group also recommended the research institute, as well as a state fund to help pay the costs to have student teachers get experience with Indian students.
Some studies have shown that Indian children perform well in school if they know their own language and cultures, Stephanie Charging Eagle of Oglala Lakota College said.
"Schools can't do that alone," she said. "The community has to get involved."
After the day's session, the principal of Enemy Swim Day School near Waubay said there is genuine excitement over the prospect of communication with the state in matters of Indian education.
"Nobody has ever asked us for our ideas," Sherry Johnson said. "Now that they have, they may wish they hadn't. They'll have to keep working at this. It probably seems overwhelming in a lot of ways, but it feels good to be part of the discussion."