Char-Koosta News

The Official Publication of the Flathead Nation online

October 6, 2011

Superintendent of Public Instruction Denise Juneau unveils "Graduation Matters" to CSKT Council to help curb high school dropout rates

By Lailani Upham

Superintendent Denise Juneau speaks to CSKT tribal council on the "Graduation Matters" initiative, a state-wide effort to make sure Montana public schools are meeting the goal of a higher percentage of students graduating and being prepared for college. Juneau reported data to the council of the local high schools on the Flathead Reservation last Tuesday. (Lailani Upham photo)
Superintendent Denise Juneau speaks to CSKT tribal council on the "Graduation Matters" initiative, a state-wide effort to make sure Montana public schools are meeting the goal of a higher percentage of students graduating and being prepared for college. Juneau reported data to the council of the local high schools on the Flathead Reservation last Tuesday. (Lailani Upham photo)

PABLO Superintendent of Public Instruction Denise Juneau made a visit to the Confederated Salish and Kootenai Tribal Council last week to introduce her new initiative to lower the drop out rate in high schools or more specific for this visit - the Flathead Reservation.

Juneau recently launched "Graduation Matters," a grassroots effort with a community-based focus.

Superintendent Juneau made the visit in hopes of enlightening the community to the effort that is spreading throughout the state to ensure the public schools are meeting the goal of graduating more students and preparing them for college and careers.

Juneau reported to the Tribal Council the Montana Office of Public Instruction drop out data for the 2009-10 school year: Arlee High School at 6.3 percent; Polson High School at 1.6 percent; St. Ignatius High School at 2.6 percent; Ronan High School at 4.2 percent; Charlo High School 3.0 percent; and Two Eagle River School at 33.3 percent.

Juneau suggested that tribal laws and policies needed to be stronger in local and education levels to promote school retention.

According to Juneau, more than 2,000 students drop out of school in Montana each year. "We can do better," she said.

Juneau stated that although her attempts to raise the legal drop out age from 16 to 18 failed in this past legislative session, she said she would continue that effort to see the measure passed during the 2013 session.

"It has not been changed in 90 years," she told the Council. "The world is different from back then. We now live in a time of social and economic circumstances that require at a very minimum a high school diploma," she added.

Stephen Smallsalmon spoke up during the council to say bulling should not be overlooked. Smallsalmon stated he feels bullying is a cause for kids to dropout and it should not be tolerated.

Juneau asserted that although a bill failed that would have established an anti-bullying policy, she added, "We will be working harder on it."

Juneau also shared that an organized student advisory board was formed in the state from 31 communities that meet on occasion to discuss dropout prevention and school climate issues. Oftentimes, she said, adults plan and discuss education, but asking the source for solutions makes more sense.

The Office of Public Instruction has also been working on a toolkit to help local schools launch a Graduation Matters initiative in their communities. The idea is based from the Superintendent's Student Advisory Board; schools will work with and encourage students to pledge to graduate. The first group of students to take part in the, "I pledge to graduate" campaign were Native students at Billings's Native American High School summer program this year.

Juneau also thanked the CSKT Tribal Council for their support in the last election.

CSKT Chairman E.T. "Bud" Moran stated in an endorsement letter that Superintendent Juneau is the first American Indian woman to be elected to a statewide position and she "is a courageous advocate for all Montana students and will fight for the state and federal policies that benefit the education of future generations."

For more information on "Graduation Matters in Montana" toolkits or resources, visit http://gmm.mt.gov, or find them on Facebook.

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