Work starts on education agreement

The current Education Agreement between the Confederated Tribes and the Jefferson County School District 509-J will end in a year and a half.

The tribes and district finalized the agreement in July of 2011. This is a five-year agreement, so it will expire in July of 2016.

The Tribal Council and the 509-J school board met last month to discuss a new agreement. This was the first Council-school board work session on the 2016 agreement.

The Council and board agreed to meet at least quarterly from now on regarding the new agreement.

At the January work session, Councilman Orvie Danzuka said the next agreement should include tribal member education benchmarks that can be measured on a regular basis.

The next agreement can be for five or more years, Councilman Carlos Smith said, but the document should include specific benchmarks that can be evaluated in a timely way.

“Our students seem to be struggling, more than others,” Councilman Kahseuss Jackson said. “We need to come together and address these issues, whatever it takes. We shouldn’t be afraid to change the system to get success.”

The current Education Agreement has brought some significant achievements, said school district superintendent Rick Molitor. The Warm Springs k-8 Academy was a priority project of the 2011 agreement, he said, and this was a major accomplishment.

“Did it solve all of the problems? No,” he said, “but it did help with some of these issues.”

Councilman Smith said the school district curriculum should include education about the Confederated Tribes—the Treaty of 1855, tribal sovereignty, U.S. vs. Oregon, ceded lands, Native language, culture, history, etc. If the curriculum were relevant and engaging to tribal member students, “I think that would help with the dropout rate,” he said.

Everyone wants the students to be ready to move on with life, whether to higher education or to a job, said Councilman Danzuka. The tribes and school district are not adversarial, he said, “but there has been a lack of progress. I think both sides dropped the ball.”

For the February meeting, the Tribal Council members said they would like to see information on the Impact Aid funding.

“We appreciate the school board being here,” Councilman Scott Moses said. “There was a time when this didn’t happen. I appreciate everyone sitting down and talking about what we need to accomplish, because we all want the same thing.”

The common goal, he said, is the best education for the next generation.