Letters: How about a year-round school calendar?

As a Navajo educator for many years in government (BIA/BIE), public, state charter, and tribally controlled grant schools, I am concerned that majority of our Navajo students are as high as 95 percent-plus non-proficient in English Language Arts and mathematics.

This is posted and reported by the Bureau Indian Education website for 2015-16 school year. The report cards are for BIE and tribally controlled schools across USA at 183 schools.

There are a few exceptions where students are doing great and improving, for example, Navajo Preparatory School in Farmington, where formative assessment scores have soured.
Specifically, I want to express my thoughts to the Navajo grant and contract schools. I truly believe our children can and must do better.

There are probably any number of variables that prompt such high non-proficiency in ELA and math. Since the Common Core State Standards were implemented in 2012, the non-proficiency deficiencies in formative assessment scores evolved. A paradigm shift with high standards, higher order thinking, and teaching methodologies and pedagogy occurred.

The CCSS are taught at grade level and the down spiral of assessment scores became obvious. Many of our students are already at disadvantage whereby some two to three years grade levels behind.

I was there when CCSS was implemented. At the school where I was at, we consistently monitored teaching and learning, and bought new textbooks for ELA and math. We presented numerous CCSS related professional development during the initial CCSS implementation year.

Also, consistent interventions and tutoring for students not readily grasping the standards or behind grade level. We also presented after-school and Saturday enrichment programs for performing students. The parents were highly involved with their children in learning.

So I realize the teachers, parents, staff, and school administrators are doing the best they can to elevate students to the next level. However, it appears that’s not happening. I look forward to the next BIE school report cards to be posted. The report cards will indicate how the students are progressing.

Here is what I believe. As the oversight tribal entity, Diné Department of Education, Window Rock, consider implementing, for volunteered or selected schools and perhaps, eventually, system-wide, a year-round education calendar.

I am a Navajo educator and feel obligated to suggest such a change in our education system. In my tenure as a Navajo educator, I have not seen a year-round calendar in any Navajo affiliated schools.

What if such a school calendar is implemented for, say, 10 tribally controlled schools? This could be viewed as a study group for 3 to 5 years.

According to the literature I read (2012-13), the most popular schedule for a year-round calendar is 45 days on and 15 days off. By contrast, in the traditional calendar children go to school nine months with three months off in the summer.

Year-round calendar study suggests “the children are not mentally engaged for 3 months and have to refocus themselves on learning when they come back to school. In a year-round calendar school, the children are consistently engaged in aspects of learning.”

Both calendars consist of 180 days of school. It is indicated the year-end calendar could be significant and beneficial for Native American students.

I would suggest even further in the year-round education calendar extend the school days by 20 days and the calendar would be 50 days on and 10 days off. The total school days would equal 200 days.

In the 10 days off the schools could implement enrichment in science, reading, mathematics, health, academic clubs, Saturday schools, interventions and tutoring, activities, additional professional development for parents, teachers, and staff, and educational filed trips for children.

The schools can do a lot with the 10 days off, enhancement of parental involvement of their children. Studies suggest students perform better on assessments, excellent school attendance, maintain good behavior, respectful, and no bullying when parents are more involved.

The children in the study group would be consistently engaged in learning. Also, in the year-round education calendar implement team teaching (two teachers per classroom) and Navajo immersion from K-3 grades and allow teachers and teacher assistants to stay with their students from K-3 grade.

Plan the year-round calendar 2019-20 and consider implementation in beginning school year 2020-21.

Years ago, I read in one of my monthly professional education journals that the Japanese have a yearly school calendar of 200 days. The children go to school 10 hours a day, after school they have a break and go another two hours for tutoring.

In the modern era, Japanese children score in the top two in formative assessments, globally. This is based on the Programme for International Student Assessment results from 2015. The results are in science, reading, and math for many countries, globally, including USA.

Where would the extra money come from for the extra school days? The federal government has a treaty responsibility for educating our children. Ask them for the extra funding for such a study. Maybe it’s time to dip deeply into the Navajo Permanent Trust Fund. “The future is now,” use some of these funds for our children.

Honorable Peterson Zah, former chairman and president of the Navajo Nation, said when millions of dollars were invested from the Kerr-McGee lawsuit award, “This money ($26 million invested) is for the future of our children.”

Thank you, Mr. Zah, and the original 1985 PTF investment team.

I am merely suggesting that we, as educators, do something different in educating our children. The year-round education calendar, I believe, is a viable option.

The schools in the study group could converse and work together frequently to see how they’re progressing. Also present a quarterly progress report to the Navajo people.

Eugene Charley
Kayenta, Ariz.

Elder bilagáana enjoyed article

Please let Donovan Quintero know how much this elder bilagáana enjoyed his actions and article (“An afternoon with tough cookies brings humility,” June 20, 2019). He must be a very good fellow.

Jerome R. Petruk
Phoenix, Ariz.

More corruption in agriculture

More Department of Agriculture program corruption. On Jan. 22, 2019, NNDA program manager, Leo Watchman Jr., sent me a letter with a District Grazing Committee resolution dated Dec. 17, 2018.

A month earlier on Nov. 7, 2018, a written request was submitted to DGC, NNDA and BIA to dismiss a request to combine two grazing permits since its taking them 10 years with no action. Updated plan was to transfer one of the two grazing permits.

On Dec. 17, 2018, District 17 and District 18 DGC acted on a resolution disregarding the new plan to transfer permit to another permit holder. The committee to act on a dismissal issue and Mr. Watchman accepting DGC resolution without facts is not good business practice.

District 17 and District 18 DGC resolution accusing me of grazing trespass violation without proof is mismanagement, program corruption and definitely gross negligence of NNDA’s mission statement.

They say my grazing permits are trespass permits by overlapping two grazing districts. Navajo grazing regulations authorize seasonal grazing permits to overlap grazing districts. Seasonal grazing permits are designed for land restoration through rotational grazing practice of using two grazing pastures six months apart by season.

Another program corruption. DGC Dec. 17, 2018, action did not comply with federal regulations that require Navajo Nation Council Resource Development Committee to review the problem and make a decision. Therefore, DGC’s grazing trespass accusation without facts is unjustified.

DGC’s action violates federal regulation on trespass that reads: “first offense which cannot be settled by District Grazing Committee will be referred to the Central Grazing Committee (now NNC-RDC) for proper settlement out of court. Second written offense will be referred directly by District Grazing Committee to appropriate tribal court.”

The resolution lacks compliance with federal regulation requirements through absence of written notification and to consult Resource Committee for administrative action prior to cancellation of permits.

BIA and NNDA technical advisors failed to advise DGC that its decision is not justified because there are no written violation nor is it recorded in the annual livestock inventory (tally) records. They have no proof. In fact, acceptance by NNDA and BIA only proves injustice to one individual.

I asked RDC Office of Legislative Service staff to put me on RDC meeting agenda to present my dispute case as it relates to DGC non-compliance with federal grazing regulation. My dispute case appeared on the May 29, 2019, RDC agenda.

May 29, 2019, at 9:15 a.m., NNRDC staff informed me NNDOJ advised them that I was taken off RDC agenda due to litigation matters and to consult Mr. Irvin Chee for more information. No reference to Navajo Nation Code was made to verify restriction of my dispute case to RDC.

Next day I called Mr. Chee for an appointment. He says he is busy with reports, etc. Appointment set on June 12, 2019.

Mr. Chee stated litigation goes into effect once a party starts a dispute case and that I should have a lawyer. My dispute case with BIA and NNDA started in 2009 and no one ever advised that my case is in litigation.

I do not have a lawyer so I am not and have not been in litigation with the Navajo Nation for 10 years.

I attended nearly all monthly DGC meetings to report updates of my case and NNDA and BIA reps never restricted me from speaking to DGC because it’s in litigation.

At the end I asked Irvin Chee for reference of documentation of the fact that it is a litigation case. I never got any document.

Even the Dec. 17, 2018, DGC resolution did not cite Navajo Nation Code or tribal resolution that clarifies any dispute cases to be classified as a litigation matter. Six months later NNDOJ cited litigation for the first time. This indicates Mr. Leo Watchman Jr. continues to fail doing his homework before he makes decisions on DGC actions.

This is program corruption. Prove me wrong.

Nels Roanhorse
Wildhorse Country Ranch
Oakridge, Ariz.


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