I take James Preminger's letter on behalf of the Central Consolidated School District Board and administration as a denial that there are problems at CCSD and predictably refusing to meet with the community on the community's terms, which means there is no community level meeting on Friday, May 17 as Mr. Matt Tso had agreed to. Neither Mr. Tso nor Mr. Levinski have responded to my letter of May 10 asking if we could collaborate on a better meeting day and to talk about the format for a community level meeting. My hand remains extended.
Mr. Preminger's argument verifies my conclusion that the district is convinced that it knows what is best for our kids and it doesn't need the community critiquing the district philosophy and process of education. All his discussion about the 14th amendment of the U.S. Constitution, Brown v. Board of Education, state law and the memorandum of understanding with the Navajo Nation is all fine and well, except that it is all beside the point.
My charge that the district is paternalistic in its attitude and feels it is immune from community critique stands. What is so difficult about the simple request of meeting with the community in a setting outside the formal school board meeting process to talk about our concerns with the district? To their credit I believe there are two gentlemen on the board who would be open to such critique.
This notion of paternalism, however unrealized and unintended, goes to confirm my suspicion that most members of the dominant society have limited ability or interest to understand what we mean when we say that our life convictions rooted in our traditional native world view is different from the perceptions of mainstream society. We believe that what we perceive in this light is more right for us and that this perception is more real and valid for us. Certainly this perception defines a process on how we should live and yes, how we should conduct our education.
Aside from these discussions of an abstract nature, there are situations where we have concerns on the CCSD management in regard to all the layoffs and terminations, the hiring of non-natives in place of qualified community members and alleged unnecessary expenditures by the district. Granted, some of these items are necessary due to the budget crunch, but there are decisions that are having severe negative impacts on families and careers. There also seems to be a pervasive fear of the administration where retaliation would be the response if staff members voiced their concerns.
The challenge is that the board and administration sit and talk with us as equals. I am one who believes that if there is courage with sincere open mindedness and objectivity to truly hear each other we can find that common ground so we can forge a united front to give the best of education to our children.
Duane "Chili" Yazzie
Shiprock, Navajo Nation