Improved lines of communication could enhance relations with Montezuma-Cortez Re-1 school officials, and more important, benefit students, according to Ute Mountain Ute leaders.
“We seem to be an afterthought, or in some instances, not even a thought at all,” Ute Mountain Ute education director Tanya Amrine said of local school officials. “That’s really frustrating.”
After the 2015 Indian Policies & Procedures meeting with school officials on Oct. 27, tribal leaders granted a rare interview with Amrine, who serves as a tribal liaison to Re-1 schools. During a 90-minute interview with The Journal, Amrine said tribal officials felt disrespected when Superintendent Alex Carter dismissed a request to open lines of communication.
“Why don’t we as adults figure out a way together so things are more cohesive?” she asked.
At the IPP meeting, Ute Mountain Ute vice-chairman Juanita Plentyholes requested that Re-1 school administrators travel to Towaoc once a week to meet with tribal educational leaders and parents. Carter declined, stating that principals didn’t have time and were needed inside the schools.
Noting principals met outside of their respective schools for district administrative meetings, Amrine subsequently told The Journal that if children were a genuine priority, then Re-1 officials would find a solution to meet the fundamental tribal demand. The effort could help forge greater trust and understanding between the tribe and school system, she said.
“It would be a very big symbolic gesture,” said Amrine, commending officials at both Southwest Open School and Montezuma-Cortez High School for dispatching a school liaison to the tribe’s education center on a weekly basis.
Adding that the tribe had great working relationships at the state and national levels, Amrine said she was puzzled why school officials were hesitant to improving dialogue.
“As a tribe, we have more political muscle than the Re-1 school district,” said Amrine. “Because of our direct contacts, we could probably help the schools.”
During the interview, Amrine highlighted specific communication breakdowns. Pointing to an elementary school tutoring session last year, Amrine explained that a tribal student was left stranded, all because the school failed to notify tribal transportation officials of a schedule change. In broader terms, Amrine revealed that school officials would often advise tribal officials of a problem student only after the incident had reached a boiling point, arguing that teachers and administrators should be proactive when the first red flag was observed instead of waiting until the confrontation had become unmanageable.
“We want to be apart of the conversation,” said Amrine, insisting that the tribe could only assist in reaching positive outcomes for students, parents and the school if properly informed.
The annual IPP meeting is held to examine inequalities that Native students face at Re-1 schools. Three of the district’s elected board members didn’t attend, and most of the Native parents in attendance had left before public comments were allowed as the two-hour meeting drew to a close.