SHIPROCK — Members of the Shiprock community came out Monday to voice their support for and opposition to a proposed charter school that would infuse its curriculum with the Diné heritage.
The New Mexico Public Education Commission held a community input hearing for the Dream Diné Charter School at the Shiprock Chapter House Monday morning. The school is one of five state charter applicants this year.
The public education commission is the authorizing agency for New Mexico charter schools.Dream Diné planning board member Gavin Sosa said the school would initially enroll about 30 students in kindergarten and first grade. Sosa said the opening date was planned for August 2014 if the proposal is approved next month.
Dream Diné would add another grade each year, potentially growing to a total enrollment of 180 to 200 students for pre-kindergarten through eighth-grade by its ninth year, he said.
The proposed campus location would be on U.S. 64, about 4 to 5 miles west of Shiprock, near the intersection with Indian Service Route 57.Members of the planning team spoke at the start of the meeting, describing how they would use Diné culture, language and history as a foundation for the curriculum.
One of the goals of the proposed school would be to incorporate the Diné philosophy of life into a school day, bringing the four sacred directions of Diné life -- east, south, west and north -- together in each school lesson.
About 10 community members spoke -- including Shiprock Chapter President Duane Yazzie and members of the Diné Language Teachers Association, the Navajo Nation Board of Education and the Shiprock Associated Schools board -- in support of the project.
"I totally feel that this opportunity needs to be provided to this proposed dream school," Yazzie said. "It would represent an alternative ... a true effort, (a) mechanism that would work with our native children."
Two representatives from the Central Consolidated School District spoke about their concerns.
Scott Nicolay, CCSD enrichment and community relations coordinator, said much of the purpose for Dream Dine' is already being served by the district's Navajo language immersion program.
Nicolay and school board president Matthew Tso both said the district has not received any notice about the application of Dream Diné. Tso said he first learned about the public hearing Sunday.
"The organizers of this group are required to follow state law with regard of notice ... which never happened," Tso said.
Sosa said two separate notices were sent to the district on Jan. 8, one day before the notification deadline.
"We did certify mail the notice and took one directly to (Superintendent Don Levinski)'s office," Sosa said.
Tso also said he was concerned about the impact on the three Shiprock elementary schools if students leave for Dream Diné.
"This particular school may even cause the unintended consequence of forcing CCSD to close (or) consolidate another Shiprock school and no one, including our District, wants to see that happen again," Tso said.