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Tribe’s Education Committee applauds Salmon River school board initiative

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AKWESASNE ––A week after a trio of candidates endorsed by the St. Regis Mohawk Tribal Council swept the races for srats on the Salmon River Central School District Board of Education the tribe’s Education Committee met with the board Tuesday to provide an update on the its educational goals, progress, challenges and future collaboration with the school district.

Margaret LaFrance, St. Regis Mohawk Tribe Education Committee member, read statement to the board written on behalf of the St. Regis Mohawk Tribe Education Committee.

“The Mohawk Education Committee is comprised of individuals that form a collaborative and collective unit whose primary goal is the education of our students,” she read. “This committee has been in existence for over 40 years meeting monthly to discuss educational concerns, attendance, student progress and achievements, social and cultural events and educational opportunities.”

Ms. LaFrance said the efforts of the committee are to ensure a quality educational experience for all students.

“We strive to nurture and encourage our students as they are the future leaders in our community. The volunteers that comprise the committee work diligently to ensure our students are challenged, see and feel success and for some to return home to give back to our community in leadership roles,” the committee’s letter states.

The committee is proud that they are able to provide scholarships to seniors at the Salmon River Central School District and the Massena Central School District.

“Currently, our higher education department supports 250 students in college and university. Just imagine in 1992, we had 72 students enrolled in college, this is progress, the kind of measurable progress we are proud of,” the letter states.

The committee was also proud to announce that 175 students will be involved in a summer program sponsored by the Akwesasne Boys and Girls Club and the Johnson O’Malley program. The goal of the program is to spark students interests and increase their educational levels over the summer, according to Ms. LaFrance.

Ms. LaFrance said the committee was pleased with the results of the recent SRCS school board elections.

“With the recent school board of education election, we will continue to see dedicated and committed people serving our school community in the best possible fashion,” the committee’s letter states.

She also laid out some of the challenges the committee faces as well. She stated that the committee is aware of the concerns with the implementation of the Common Core curriculum. Also, the committee recognizes the need for preparing students for college and helping to maintain a student’s commitment level while at school. The committee’s other concerns are for student attendance and achievement.

“We understand and acknowledge the need for more services whether it is academic, career exploration, college preparation or exposure the performing arts,” the letter states. “We promise to work with everyone to address these challenges in a proactive manner. When we put our minds together as one great things can and will happen.”

With the 2014-2015 school year approaching, the committee with be undergoing changes in leadership.

Currently, they are working on three to five “action oriented” goals to work on throughout the year. According to Ms. LaFrance, these goals will focus on continued partnership with various community programs, ensuring personnel have access to cultural competency training, promotion of qualified and diversified professionals and respecting the responsibility that the two local school districts have in the education of its native students through the tuition contracts.

The committee praised SRCS for their work on the Science, Technology, Engineering, and Mathematics program initiative.

“We are excited about the STEM programing that Superintendent [Jane] Collins and Salmon River have undertaken. Thank you for bringing this exciting initiative to the district, you are helping to ignite and fuel a passion for STEM careers and pathways,” the letter states. “Along similar lines, it is encouraging to see that the high school is preparing distinct career pathways in the STEM and humanities fields, with a strong emphasis on career and technical education.”

SRCS was also praised by the committee for maintaining the art program in the district and for improving its Common Core curriculum.

“The district’s decision to maintain the art position is also a positive step to ensuring the students will have access to well-rounded curriculum,” the committee’s letter states. “Furthermore, it is encouraging to hear from parents and students that their experience with the Common Core is slowly improving. This is testament of the hard work that the teachers and the administration are putting forth each day.”

The St. Regis Mohawk Tribe Education Committee invite community members to come and be involved in the committee. The committee meets at 4:30 p.m. on the first Monday of the month at the training center for the Akwesasne Casino, located in the Speedway Plaza.

“We all have one thing in common here, the children,” the letter states. “We all have a similar goal to see them do well in school and achieve their dreams. It is through continued cooperative partnerships that we will persist to seek what is in the best interest of all students.”

“I would just like to say that this year, a number of times, Stephanie Cook has reached out to the district to meet with myself and administrators to help facilitate collaboration on programing with tribal services and the message I heard tonight is consistent with what I have seen this year with the amount of time and energy that Stephanie and members of the Mohawk Education Committee have made to work closely with the school to try and create the best programs that we can together for all students,” Ms. Collins said.

She also touched on the committee’s focus on school attendance.

Ms. Collins said the district has tried new initiatives this year, but are not where they need to be with attendance. Ms. Collins stated that SRCS wants to work closely with the committee on this issue.

Collins was also happy to hear that the committee values the work SRCS has done on the STEM initiative. She shared her appreciation with those committee members present at Tuesday’s meeting.

“I value that fact that you see the work the middle school sixth grade teachers and the Principal Tammy Russell have done with the STEM Program. I want to commend the board of education for their support of the STEM Program,” Ms. Collins said. “I am very, very pleased to say I see a new direction here, and I think it is going to pay big dividends to the students of Salmon River and I appreciate all of the support from the Mohawk Education Committee.”

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