Federal program targets Native students in public schools

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KIRTLAND — The Central Consolidated School District and the Navajo Nation continue to discuss future contracting and implementation of a federal program designed to benefit Native American students.

Berlinda Begay, the bilingual multicultural coordinator for the district, informed school board members on Tuesday about the outcome of an April 12 meeting between the district and Navajo Nation Johnson-O'Malley Program (JOM) staff members.

The meeting was arranged to discuss the possibility of the district resuming its subcontract with the tribal JOM office for the 2017-2018 school year, Begay said.

The JOM Program is a federal program that provides supplemental funding and services for eligible Native American students enrolled in public schools.

The distribution of the funding is managed by the tribe's Department of Diné Education, and it is provided to eligible school districts located on and off the reservation.

In December, school board members approved ending the subcontract between CCSD and the tribe's JOM office in order to comply with state procurement laws and due to the lack of a quorum for the district's Indian Education Committee (IEC).

On April 5, the school board approved having district administrators and two board members meet with the tribal JOM office to discuss continued involvement with the program.

One outcome from the April 12 meeting is that the school board will continue to temporarily serve as the district's IEC.

The district will update the bylaws for the IEC and include the district's creation of the Indian Parent Advisory Council (IPAC), which would eventually serve as the IEC.

The IPAC's membership will consist of 16 parent representatives, and they will serve as voting members. In addition, IPAC will have four teachers and student representatives serve as ex officio members.

CCSD was awarded $419,438 from the JOM Program for the 2017-2018 fiscal year and to use during the current school year.

Begay said the tribe's JOM office cannot guarantee a carryover of funding from the current school year to the 2018-2019 school year, but such action can be requested.

She added the district has until April 30 to complete its JOM application for the upcoming school year.

Board member Ruthda Thomas reminded the audience that the action taken by the district was not intended to abolish the relationship with the tribe's JOM office. She added the decision to have schools select parents for service on the IPAC was an attempt to improve communication and participation.

"This negotiation that we (did), it came out to be something positive. It means we'll go forward," Thomas said.

Noel Lyn Smith covers the Navajo Nation for The Daily Times. She can be reached at 505-564-4636 or by email at nsmith@daily-times.com.

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