OKLAHOMA CITY (April 6, 2017) – Hundreds of tribal officials and Oklahoma educators met in Tulsa Wednesday for a first-of-its-kind gathering aimed at meeting the needs of Native students. Hosted by the Five Civilized Tribes, the Oklahoma State Department of Education (OSDE) and the Muscogee (Creek) Nation, the Tribal Nations and Public School Collaborative Engagement Workshop was designed to foster collaboration and develop strategies that strengthen education for the state’s 130,000-plus Native students.
State Superintendent of Public Instruction Joy Hofmeister said the workshop marks a historic turning point.
“Tribal consultation is a requirement of the federal Every Student Succeeds Act, but more importantly, it is the right thing to do,” Hofmeister said. “Every student in our public schools deserves an education that meets his or her individual needs and serves the whole child.
“Moreover, educators bear a responsibility to understand the rich cultures, customs and unique heritage of our Native students. With the workshop, we began a critical new chapter in public education in Oklahoma. Partnerships like the ones we introduced Wednesday will enable districts to leverage additional federal resources that fuel individual instruction and provide the technological tools our students need for success.”
In addition to OSDE, tribal nations and districts, the U.S. Department of Education, Bureau of Indian Education and National Indian Education Association figured prominently in the April 5 event.
Muscogee (Creek) Nation Principal Chief James R. Floyd emphasized the importance of the relationship between tribes and the 205 Oklahoma school districts that serve their students.
“This process allows us to make sure that those schools reflect our history, our culture, our language in an effort to improve education results for our students,” he said. “We need to make sure they have an opportunity to succeed and be productive in society.”
School districts’ collaboration with tribes will help educators better serve Native students, said Kirt Hartzler, superintendent of Union Public Schools, which serves about 1,000 Native students.
“We need to make sure we take care of those students,” said Hartzler. “It’s often said that public education is designed to serve the public. I think it’s much greater than that; it’s designed to create the public. We all have to learn to live together, so these types of endeavors are extremely important to all of us. We’ve got to personalize and individualize the education journey.”
To facilitate collaboration, workshop attendees were provided with a tribal consultation guide produced by the OSDE.