September 6, 2012
Kassandra Murphy-Brazill picked to lead Nkwusm
By B.L. Azure
Kassandra Murphy-Brazill has been tabbed to be the principal of the Nkw
usm Salish Language Institute in Arlee. (B.L. Azure photo)
ARLEE - In early August, the Nkwusm Salish Language Institute hired a principal that will guide the school on its course to the future and destination to the salvation of the Salish tongue.
Flathead Indian Reservation educator Kassandra Murphy-Brazill was the Nkwusm Board of Directorsí choice after a principal search that lasted nearly nine-months.
Murphy-Brazill said she is thrilled to be the new administrative and teaching staff leader and is looking forward to the challenges she will encounter at the school, which has been around for a decade now. It is located in the former tribal bowling alley in Arlee and is adjacent to the public schools there.
The genesis of the school came from the efforts of four young tribal members - Tachini Pete, Melanie Sandoval, Chaney Bell and Josh Brown - wanting to learn Salish and finding out how few fluent speakers there were on the reservation.
"I think everybody here is really ready for the start of the new school year and are looking forward to how we can work together to meet our mission of teaching Salish and increasing the fluency of the language," Murphy-Brazill said last Thursday. "I am really excited about this challenge and everyone is open to working together to encourage student growth in the educational and social arenas."
There are more than 25 students enrolled at Nkwusm in the pre-school through 8th grades as of last week. Murphy-Brazill expects that there may be more after the Labor Day break. By the third week in September the student count should be finalized.
One of Murphy-Brazillís and the boardsí many goals is to increase enrollment, especially in the middle grades. Presently class size is small in some grades and large in others. She wants a healthy and manageable balance.
Also this year the pre-school students will be fully Salish immersion taught.
Murphy-Brazill is married to Bryan Brazill and together they have eight children and one granddaughter under their roof.
Murphy-Brazill, an enrolled member of the Fort Belknap Nation, has lived on the Flathead Indian Reservation all her life. She has a bachelorís degree in education, as well as a masterís degree in social work, and education leadership and administration. She is currently working on a doctorate degree.
The 38-year-old educator has been working in the education field in various positions on the Flathead Reservation for more than a decade. That includes positions at Two Eagle River, Ronan and Arlee schools. She has also worked a the Montana office of the federal Commission of Higher Education as the dean of American Indian and Minority achievement in Helena.
She is a good fit for the educational and administrative needs at Nkwusm, according to the Sam Sandoval, chair of the Nkwusm Salish Language Institute Board of Directors.
"The Nkwusm board felt she was well versed in education and she began giving us pointers well before we decided on hiring her for the principal position," Sandoval said. "That commitment before we hired her impressed us. She been on the ball since and has been very helpful to the board and staff. With her broad knowledge base, she is a great addition to the school and we plan on having a very good working relationship with her."
Sandoval said he feels the Nkwusm staff and board will benefit from Murphy-Brazillís leadership to strive towards the main goal of Nkwusm, the teaching of the Salish language and integrate teaching lessons that meet the requirements of a public school education.
"She has demonstrated a lot of initiative in getting on top of the administrative issues at the school, that has taken a lot of pressure off the board," Sandoval said. "We are looking to a bright future at the school with her and Doug Morigeau, the fund raising coordinator."
There are a lot of needs at Nkwusm but one Murphy-Brazill would like to see taken care of is a new bus to transfer students from the Polson area to Arlee. The playground also needs to be updated.
"Our present bus has more than 200,000 miles on it. We have a van but it is to small to meet our needs to transfer staff and students on field excursions," Murphy-Brazill said.
She also wants to seek and provide more training opportunities for the staff to meet specific needs, be it in administration, teaching and nutrition.
"We will analyze the staff needs and work to fulfill them," Murphy-Brazill said.
Tours of the school will be offered throughout the school year and will be announced well in advance.
"We want to spruce up the inside of the school and the outside," she said. "We want people to see the same welcoming environment in our facilities that is evident in our staff. Itís going to be a great year. We are all excited about it"
There are approximately 20 people employed at Nkwusm. The Confederated Salish and Kootenai Tribal Council provides major funding and the rest is through private and grant funds.