BOX OF TREASURES – Haida artist Holly Churchill, of Ketchikan, shows Sitka High School senior Myles Magie a weaving technique on a cedar bark basket Wednesday in the Sitka High art room. Churchill finished a three-week residency today sponsored by the Sitka School District and Sealaska Heritage Institute's Sharing Our Box of Treasures" program. Her residency included work in the high school's new dual-credit program with UAS, the Northwest Coast Arts class, and sessions with Blatchley Middle School and the Sitka Native Education Program Culture Class. (Sentinel Photo by James Poulson)

Gov Seeks Public Input On Native Tribal Schools

    ANCHORAGE (AP) — Alaska’s governor wants public input on an upcoming bill to set up a legal framework for Alaska Native tribal governments to operate K-12 schools, officials said.
    Republican Gov. Mike Dunleavy plans to introduce the bill during the next legislative session, The Anchorage Daily News reported  Wednesday.
    Tribes would be asked to enter into agreements with the state called compacts to operate the schools, education officials said.
    The state education department plans to hold a series of community meetings this month and in early 2020 to hear Alaska residents’ comments and questions, officials said.
    “This is a new thing, and we want to make sure we’re going about it in a way that engages the public and our tribes,” said Joel Isaak, a tribal liaison for the education department.
    The schools would be open to all students and “offer a unique, culturally rich combination of Western and millennia-old tribal educational models,” the education department said.
    Dunleavy believes compacts with Alaska’s tribal governments could improve academics, such as helping students reach benchmarks in reading and math.
    “I think this is an opportunity to involve the tribes in the educational process of their tribal members,” he said.
    The compacts are not cost-saving measures, but rather an effort to improve academic outcomes from school attendance to dropout rates, education department Assistant Commissioner Niki Tshibaka said.
    Supporters hope the education system will improve if tribal governments are given the choice to have more control over schools.
    “This is as much about empowerment as it is about schooling,” said Sandra Kowalski, a state board of education member.
    The new model could mean more culturally relevant lessons and community involvement in classrooms, which could contribute to better student performance, advocates said.
    “I believe if our students see themselves in the educational system, and their values and their cultural beliefs are represented in their learning and their school, they have a better sense of achieving in life and our academic outcomes will also improve,” Kowalski said.   

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