Char-Koosta News

The Official Publication of the Flathead Nation online

July 7, 2011

Montana Indian Education Association board members meet for the first time

By Lailani Upham

Penny Kipp, Confederated Salish and Kootenai Tribal Education Director delivers the welcoming address to the Montana Indian Education Association Strategic Planning meeting last week at the KwaTaqNuk Resort. "Your work you do here today, we know is written with the hearts and minds of good people, who are greatest resource, and that is our children," Kipp expressed to the nine member board. (Lailani Upham photo)
Penny Kipp, Confederated Salish and Kootenai Tribal Education Director delivers the welcoming address to the Montana Indian Education Association Strategic Planning meeting last week at the KwaTaqNuk Resort. "Your work you do here today, we know is written with the hearts and minds of good people, who are greatest resource, and that is our children," Kipp expressed to the nine member board. (Lailani Upham photo)

POLSON — The first Montana Indian Education Association board of directors strategic planning meeting was held in Polson at the KwaTaqNuk Resort last month.

The three-day meeting embraced elements of: creating a strong board, effective communication using technology, financial issues and reporting, documents and policy, defining goals, and methods and implementations.

The assembly launched with input from all the board members with an introduction to include goals for the association’s mission.

Ron Juneau, MIEA Director, who also facilitated the meeting broke the ice with sharing his purpose for serving was to see not only a better life for his children and grandchildren but others as well.

Michelle Mitchell, MIEA board member and CSKT tribal member stated that the opportunity to serve on the board found her. Mitchell’s passion for Indian education at times keeps her up at night she said. “Every morning I wake up I want to make a difference for our children’s education.”

Board member Corri Smith stated the group was the “Indian voice” in education and said they must serve the population at the best possible way.

Norma Bixby said she always had an interest in Indian education. “There is a lot of work to be done and it (MIEA) is something needed in our school system and in Montana,” she stated.

Ron Juneau, MIEA Director discusses the work sessions ahead on the weekend agenda for the strategic planning. Topics covered were: creating a strong board, effective communication using technology, financial issues and reporting, documents and policy, and defining goals, method and implementation, following with a wrap-up of: "Where do we go from here?" (Lailani Upham photo)
Ron Juneau, MIEA Director discusses the work sessions ahead on the weekend agenda for the strategic planning. Topics covered were: creating a strong board, effective communication using technology, financial issues and reporting, documents and policy, and defining goals, method and implementation, following with a wrap-up of: "Where do we go from here?" (Lailani Upham photo)

Joe Arrow Top, who works and lives in the Heart Butte school district stated there are areas that require strong advocacy and believes that MIEA provides a well-run and efficient operation to do so.

Thomas Brown, from the Poplar School District said he hopes to gain experience to add to his current position. “We must always learn no matter how old you are, and pass that information on.”

Arlene Augare stated she wanted to gain knowledge as she serves to bring back useful and effective information to the teachers, school board members and administration in her district.

Carol Juneau, a long time MIEA board member and former Democratic Montana State District 8 Senator, said her motto has always been: “If you want to make change be where the policies are being made.” She stated that MIEA was in a position to be a strong voice for Indian education.

Discussions and training on becoming a stronger board member were carried out through surveys and questions at each member.

The first session ended with a boat ride and Kootenai Culture Committee member Vernon Finley telling traditional stories over dinner. Finley’s focus on the committee is the Kootenai language preservation.

CSKT acting Tribal Education Director Penny Kipp, welcomed the group and thanked them for continued work accomplished. “Your work is not only heard here on the Flathead Reservation, it is implemented in various academic areas in our children’s classrooms daily. It is because of you and others before you who knew that the success of our Indian children was contingent on their comfort in their classrooms to be able to see themselves, their culture and their place they live in every aspect of the academic areas. Knowing that this information should not only go to our Indian children, but their peers who also live here. It brings uniformity to the classroom,” Kipp stated.

The meeting was a first of its kind, according to Mitchell. The work sessions covered a multitude of topics and discussions that will build and develop strategies to empower Indian school districts throughout Montana.

Kipp included an explanation of the annual CSKT Tribal Pupil Instruction Related (PIR) day. It is a day hosted once a year by the CSKT Tribal Education Department and CSKT tribal employees. PIR days are mandated by the Montana public school system with seven PIR days a school year. CSKT has been hosting one since 1995.

Kipp explained those PIR days are set-aside for educators to receive instruction on education or management content to be used in the classroom. The tribal PIR day focuses on relating to Native students in the public school system within the Flathead Reservation.

“This day is I’m sure only one example of the Indian Education For All here in Montana. I’m sure proud of ours and I believe we do a good job. As in all things it is time to take a look at how this might evolve. In examining our schools we have over 50 different tribes represented. I guess it’s time to share the stage and learn about our sister tribes, to step out and learn about the Gros Ventre, the Blackfeet, the Crow and the other reservations in Montana. With MIEA’s resources, the assistance of Office of Public Instruction and others, that will be come a reality here on the Flathead Reservation.”

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