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TPS hosts community meeting for Indian Education Program

Posted at 12:02 AM, Jan 31, 2020
and last updated 2020-01-31 14:52:20-05

TULSA, Okla. — Teachers, parents and students raised many concerns with Tulsa Public School’s plans for its Indian Education Program at a community meeting Thursday night.

The district said they are recommending eliminating some Indian Education positions as part of the re-organization that will be presented to the Board of Education. The program is federally funded through Title VI. The district said a decrease in students enrolled in the program is leading to a decrease in funding for the program.

Some of the most vocal in the crowd were student members of the Tulsa Native Youth Board, who spoke up about how important the program is to them.

“There’s been a real lack of communication between Native students, parents, staff and the TPS system as a whole," said Caroline deCamp, a member of the Tulsa Native Youth Board. "So, by coming out here, we’re getting to have our voices heard and really express how we feel.”

There are currently seven resource advisers for the program. The new proposal would reduce that number to three student specialists and add one cultural enrichment specialist. It would also increase the number of teaching assistants from four to six. Dr. Tryg Jorgensen, an adviser in the program, said it would be hard for them to work with the 3,000 Native American students enrolled in the district if their numbers go down.

“Ultimately, we’re an advocacy for the students," he said. "And with 80 something schools and seven of us trying to cover that many kids, it’s really disappointing that the district is trying to take this type of approach.”

There was a lot of emotion and anger from those in the crowd who upset about how the process has been handled. They asked a variety of questions, many about the budget and who would be hired to lead the program if reorganized.

Despite the concerns, TPS Superintendent Dr. Deborah Gist said they learned a lot of valuable information.

“We were grateful for the very concrete feedback that we got," Gist said. "The ideas that were shared. The recommendations on the proposal itself."

The district said these changes are intended to improve services to students.

There could still be changes to the proposal before it is brought before the school board in mid-February.

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