Tuesday, May 30, 2023

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DODE to assume control of Nazlini Community School


The Navajo Nation Board of Education called a due process hearing Jan. 6 to determine whether Nazlini Community School Inc. should turn control of its operations over to the Navajo Nation Department of Diné Education.

The hearing was called after DODE received documents stating that the NCS school board was actively engaged in significant micromanagement of the school and interfering with the administrative affairs and day-to-day operations.

In addition to bringing a negative impact on the school’s financial state and operational performance, the schoolÕs board actions also include:

  • Inappropriate involvement by the school board in academic details of the school.
  • Undue influence on the school administration.
  • Failure of the school board to limit activities to governance and policy.

Additional documents state the Nazlini Community School governing board twice violated Resolution ECJA-04-03 regarding the education credentials/licensure of Harrison Smith, identified as the current chief school administrator without the required administrative or principalÕs license from the state of Arizona, and Marleita Begay, who has acted in the capacity of chief school administrator without the necessary executive or principalÕs license from the state of Arizona.

In addition, the documentation states Begay possessed high-level access, including CEO-level access to the schoolÕs bank account, that allowed her undue influence over the schoolÕs finances and daily school affairs.

By appointing Smith and Begay as chief school administrators without the proper credentials, the school governing boardÕs actions negatively impacted the schoolÕs operations and placed the school at significant risk of loss by jeopardizing the school’s accreditation.

The NCS governing board was also deemed non-compliant in submitting two required documents:

  1. A timely and complete grant reauthorization application by the required deadline of March 21, 2022, under the approved and applicable provisions of the Grant/Contract Conversion/Maintenance Handbook as approved by Resolution ECF-12-01.
  2. A required audit to the federal government and DODE by the Sept. 30, 2022, audit submission deadline as required by the Indian Self-Determination and Education Assistance Act. Failure to comply resulted in the P.L. 100-297 grant application being incomplete, delinquent, and in violation of applicable policies. This is another indicator of financial mismanagement on the governing board’s behalf.

The notice to NCS first went out to board members Dec. 22. Two Nazlini school board members, JoAnn Dedman and Marleita Begay, did not attend NazliniÕs meetings, so the school did not come to a consensus on how to respond to the allegations received by DODE as stated by Nazlini Board President Maybelle Kellywood.

The attorney for DODE in the hearing, Colin Bradley, advised the lack of a quorum and no official position from the school board should result in the default judgment, which is the assumption of control being granted to DODE. The Board of Education agreed, acting as a tribunal for the hearing.

The motion to grant the default judgment due to no legal representation, no defense, or official response authorized by Nazlini was made by Board Member Priscilla Benally and seconded by Board Member Joan Gray. The motion was passed with a 5-0-2 vote to have DODE assume Nazlini Community School Inc. by default.


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