Letters: Defensive moves with malicious intent, slander, libel

I am submitting this letter as a response to a letter in last week’s edition of the Navajo Times regarding concerns about Dilcon Community School (“Dire concerns about Dilcon school board, principal,” by Leticia Nez).

Balancing both sides of the story is essential to understanding the entirety of the issue.

The first thing I would like to make clear is that the letter submitted last week does not speak for all parents, staff, and community members. As I myself am a community member and a parent of a student at Dilcon Community School, I never authorized or was aware of anyone collecting signatures or any authorizations for anyone to speak or represent us as a whole.

From what I gathered, there was a lot of reference to the current principal, Mr. William Wachunas, as being biased and not sensitive to the Navajo way of life. This I can attest to as being untrue.

Mr. Wachunas has in fact (and was not given credit for) gone above and beyond in accommodating all aspects of the Navajo way of life to the point of actually trying to learn the language.

A cultural immersion program is in place at the school in which particular hours are conducted entirely in Navajo. He participates in this as well. Why was this not noted?
He is very culturally sensitive but bound by policy that has been put in place before he arrived. Even so, he tries to accommodate as much as possible. He is learning to speak Navajo. He bends to our culture. His limitation on his end of what kind of lattitude he can give are superseded by policy before he arrived.

For more clarity or to get specific, one major reason certain staff were upset is that he was bound by policy to ask for some sort of proof or documentation of a relative having passed on if someone were to go on bereavement leave. Although in the Navajo culture it is somewhat rude to ask of such things, this policy has been in place before he came aboard and the current staff knows this. Nobody should be blindsided by this information but some will claim they had no idea.

What I do see happening is simple. When this school goes out and seeks a new person to be principal, if this person is not on “agenda” with the current staff who have been there for years, he is looked upon as a threat.

For too long certain staff have become way too comfortable and are very much set in their ways that it becomes the status quo. When this is threatened, people will go out of their way to discredit anyone trying to make positive changes by any means they can think of if it means disrupting the current “culture” in place.
He has been very diplomatic and works hard to diffuse and work through issues with these individuals who are abusive of relationships, conditions, tenure and resisting actual improvements that would benefit students, school, community — basically everything he is accused of would have the status quo disrupted by him. And this is where we find ourselves: observing the system that has been in place for a while become challenged and we see the defensive moves being made such as malicious intent, slander and libel among others to discredit someone trying to make this positive change.

It is sad that the way he is characterized is actually how he has been treated. This appearance of “bullying” is by deeply ingrained people who want to keep the status quo in place and will resist any positive changes implemented by however many principals are brought on board because of them trying to remedy situation.

If there were anything to these allegations the school board and BIE would have intervened. Any one of these would be serious enough for action, or investigation. Ultimately, it’s sad to see someone disgruntled and intent to keep their improper status quo, go so far to try to get rid someone making positive changes, and yet again, our students, staff, community and our nation are not being honored by their actions in doing so. The dishonor is the person making such reckless, damaging and false allegations for their own personal manipulative purposes.

If the situation was that bad, why hasn’t staff come forward? Nothing was submitted firsthand, only through a third party that no one recognizes. This shows malicious intent and motive, when his purpose is to promote positive change for students and it actually challenges a few people’s long-standing bad practices, in an effort to improve conditions for students and the school, which apparently threatens those individuals to the point that their recourse is to try to discredit him.

Unfortunately, this pattern of challenging and discrediting the principal and school board is recurring, not limited to this specific principal and this day, but does show a pattern. The common denominator in all this is the few staff that want to protect their special perks and status that they’ve ingrained over the years into their positions.
This leads to me other points that were brought up. Last week’s letter stated that most of the teaching staff lacks certification, also untrue.

The teaching staff are certified and even all substitutes are certified by the state, though due to the lack of degreed teachers to serve as substitutes in the state to accommodate Arizona schools’ needs, the state allows for emergency substitutes to be state-certified to fill substitute teacher needs.

If there were enough qualified teachers, there wouldn’t be an emergency certificate but due to lack of teachers, there is. But admittedly, some may not have higher-education teaching degrees but they are not to be there to take over all year, but to follow the teacher’s class plan, continue to provide the assignments as detailed in those plans — on a temporary basis, short term.

For an appropriate teacher to be brought in if coverage is needed, this certification allows that. The pool is too shallow for degreed teachers, which is why emergency certification exists. They then go down the list and choose by the best qualified, then so on and so forth.
No teacher is ever put in without certification. This allows them to be called upon due to lack of substitutes with additional educational backgrounds. Teachers out unexpectedly for a long duration, an appropriately degreed teacher, fitting that particular class need would be assigned, not just an emergency certificate substitute.

From what I have seen, Mr. William Wachunas is an exceptional principal and leader. This was also challenged in that letter. I have seen nothing of what was expressed negatively about him ever transpire. The board also had a hard job to do and I find that they do a great job.

As we begin the new school year in a few months, a mostly new school board will be waiting for their arrival. So if past issues were prevalent, we haven’t gotten the new board to take any sort of action. We have yet to see. But from what was observed with the most current board, they have done quite well.

On the issue of low morale, I have definitely seen this attributed by certain staff. I have literally walked in the school to not one person smiling or any type of greeting, except from a few, including Mr. Wachunas.

If there is any disharmony being created, it is from the likes of people like Leticia Nez, a person whom I have never had contact with although they claim they have been to the school many times and to the Parent-Teacher Organization meetings.

I was present at school most everyday as a parent and have been to most, if not all, PTO meetings. This is the first time I’ve ever even heard of this person. Please let it be known that Leticia Nez and whomever she spoke for does not represent all. That point has to be clear.

So, to reiterate, the leadership is outstanding, the cultural immersion is thriving, and the status quo is being challenged. Am I the only person who sees this for what it is, an attempt to discredit and run off any person who tries to come in and improve this school? I find that sad.

This principal has gone above and beyond to bend for our culture and is treated with such disrespect that I am amazed he would like to hang on and endure to continue to bring positive changes for our students, staff, parents, community and nation. That is a true sign of a great leader.

May we move forward and think of our children, and not of the personal agendas of disgruntled people.

Tonaya Jesbah Anderson-Elliott
Winslow, Ariz.

Dismayed at turnout for NGS listening sessions

I attended and spoke at the Department of the Interior’s listening tours regarding the closing of the Navajo Generating Station. After four meetings in four days, I was dismayed at the dismal turnout.

Few from the northwest reservation were heard, except one brave woman who spoke in support of the continued funding of education through coal royalties.
Only the presence of the Peabody Coal workers (who attended every session) brought any balance to the proceedings. There were people who used scare tactics and intimidation in their support of closing the plant.

At the meeting in the Hopi village of Kykotsmovi, their leaders spoke of the massive losses their people will suffer if NGS closes.

Navajo Nation President Russell Begaye has been quoted in numerous newspaper articles claiming to have worked very hard to keep the plant open, including trips to Washington, D.C. Yet in a recent (May 2, 2017) Vice News interview he admits to wanting the plant closed.

In 2008, the Department of Energy and the BIA gave grant money to the Navajo-Hopi Land Commission office to study the 22,000-acre Paragon Ranch in New Mexico for its solar energy potential. (That land was set aside for people relocated in the Navajo-Hopi Land Settlement Act of 1974).

They took the grant money, yet 10 years later there are no solar farms on the Paragon-Bitsi Ranch. White Mesa was promised running water 30 years ago. White Mesa has no running water today. The list is long of promises made, promises broken.

The “green” energy of solar cannot replace the stable 24/7 energy produced by NGS nor the jobs and income from the Kayenta Mine and the railroad.
It takes approximately 1,200 acres of solar panels to generate 100 megawatts of power. The NGS sits on about 1,700 acres. This site alone would go from 2,250 megawatts down to around 120 and maybe 10 jobs.

The Kayenta Solar Project (a 38-megawatt D.C. plant) is reportedly 75 percent complete. Isolux Corsan is the contractor on this project. Does anyone remember Solyndra? (They went bankrupt after taking over $500 million in solar subsidies from the federal government).

Isolux Corsan’s Spanish division is seeking $945 million in Chapter 15 protection in a New York court. They are also in trouble on a large highway project in Indiana, another project in Bolivia, and a high-speed train in Madrid.

Isolux Corsan is under investigation by the justice department for money laundering, tax evasion and forgery on a project in Mexico. Let’s hope the Kayenta project goes online before Isolux Corsan goes bankrupt.

We sure can pick them!

With a 42 percent unemployment rate on the Navajo Reservation and even higher on the Hopi Reservation, these rates will climb alarmingly high if the plant shuts down. Our neighbors in Page, and the surrounding communities will also be economically devastated.

I will continue to fight to keep the Navajo Generating Station open. There are compromises all sides can make. Take one generator out and replace those megawatts with solar, for example. Are tribal leaders asking too much of an increase in leases and royalties?

We know the government is not going to “save” us. We must stand up and be heard. Contact the Navajo Nation Council members. Ask them how they plan to replace the millions of dollars lost, thousands of jobs lost, and many closed businesses, because solar alone cannot.

Email the Department of the Interior at ngs@usbr.gov or send in a letter to the editor. The future is now. Please help us save the Navajo Generating Station.

Adrian Augustine
Kaibeto, Ariz.

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Categories: Letters