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Clarice Charlo King honored for years of educational service

By Lailani Upham

Retired Two Eagle River School principal Clarice Charlo King is congratulated with a quilt from long-time coworkers Cheryl Morigeau and Kathy Tapia with the support of her husband, Rudy King. The King’s recently celebrated their 25th wedding anniversary. (Courtesy photo) Retired Two Eagle River School principal Clarice Charlo King is congratulated with a quilt from long-time coworkers Cheryl Morigeau and Kathy Tapia with the support of her husband, Rudy King. The King’s recently celebrated their 25th wedding anniversary. (Courtesy photo)

PABLO — Thirty years as an Indian school principal is one of many reasons to be recognized with a lifetime achievement award.

And a lifetime of achievement is what Clarice Charlo King has done in the minds and hearts of many students and staff at TERS.

Last week King received the Confederated Salish and Kootenai Tribal Education 2014 Lifetime Achievement Award at the People’s Center.

King began her role as not merely a principal, but a mentor and “mother” figure to hundreds of students and concluded her career like a “grandmother” to several more.

Anita Whitworth, former TERS board member, said King was a caring woman and a true role model for Native women as well.

“She knew how to educate Native students because she knew how they learned. She is steeped in Salish traditional ways and could readily identify strengths in families,” Whitworth said. “I watched four of my children bloom under her supervision and her iron hand, when needed,” she added.

When she retired in 2012, King had students graduating that were children to those who first graduated when she began.

King was born in 1942 to Margaret Pablo and Clarence Charlo and a descendent of Chief Charlo. She was raised also by grandparents Louise and Abel Combs who she says taught her respect, dignity, and humility and to nurture others. She also gained a quiet strength that served her well in her pursuit of education and professionalism and a strong role as a mother, grandmother, and great-grandmother.

Husband and wife team Rebekah and Sean Dalbey who had been at TERS for over a decade agree she was more of a partner than a boss with staff members.

“She would tell us what she wanted and then lets do our jobs, without second guessing or micromanaging,” stated, Rebekah, English teacher. “She listened and thought things through when staff, parents, or students had ideas or concerns,” she added.

Sean, art teacher said, she was one of the best bosses he ever had and said no matter what position a person was at TERS she treated everyone equal with the same goal in mind of the success of the student.

“She always gave everyone the opportunity to find and refine their skills which would benefit the students and school,” Sean said.

The priceless value she has gained is now being passed down to her family tree.

King kept her legacy growing up and raising her four children in Arlee: Margaret, Juanita, Robert, and David. From her children she has been blessed with seven grandchildren.

King graduated from Arlee High School in 1960 and worked as a secretary for the high school, then went onto jobs with the Bureau of Indian Affairs and Indian Health Service and a position with Indian Education Johnson O’Malley program as a coordinator and proposal writer.

From 1967 to 1974 she worked on her B.A. in Social Work and Native American Studies from the University of Montana. She graduated in 1974.

She was an original member of the launch of a reservation-wide education committee that eventually developed into Two Eagle River School. She as was also active during that time on a committee that was the birth of Salish Kootenai College.

Before completing her M.A. in 1978 at the University of Montana she taught social studies and business education. After graduation she stepped into the Assistant Principal position at TERS.

In 1981, King was deemed TERS principal; however, from 1983 – 1990 she left to work with the BIA.

She returned to TERS in 1990 as curriculum developer. In 1993 she became acting principal; and in 1994 became the first Native American woman superintendent in Montana. While superintendent at TERS King also held the duties as principal.

Coworkers praise this time as she began to shine in individual lives of students where she displayed a delicate balance of tough love while imparting wisdom. Her philosophy was, “build up their egos and then get into the academics.”

Former eighth grade teacher and current teacher at Muckleshoot Tribal School Heather Wippert said, “Clarice believed in her staff more than any administer could have. She not only believed, but she supported our creative teaching styles. She gave us 100 percent support and not only as an administer, but she was like a mother.”

From the time she stepped in as a superintendent she remained - until her retirement two years ago.

She was there during the growth when TERS was located at the small Dixon school location to the Pablo location. She grew with the school as accreditation was gained in 1983 through the Northwest Accreditation Commission and the State of Montana Office of Public Instruction.

During her watchful eye as a mother/grandmother, TERS expansion included a daycare, a middle school, an array of courses, meetings of each student on a monthly basis, and leveling classes with diagnostic assessments, and finally in 2005 making the days a bit longer, yet the week shorter to four days.

“You could go to her and tell exactly what was going on in your life and she would listen without judging. Clarice gave her students chances and pushed them to be all they could be. The students loved and respected her wholeheartedly. There was a time I no longer believed in myself and she gave me the power to believe again. I was down and out and she gave me a chance to shine again,” Wippert said.

She also partnered with SKC to provide higher education opportunities.

She also developed partnerships with community elders to preserve tribal identity and launch Salish and Kootenai language programs.

Dolly Irvine, TERS bus driver stated, “Clarice understood the staff and students and what was important for the school as a whole. She knew how important culture and language is to the school in order to keep it from being just another school.”

“She was a true friend, touched a lot of hearts, including mine. Clarice was there when you needed her. My mother Helen always had good words to say about Clarice and loved working with her,” said Chrissie Ewing, TERS paraprofessional since 2000.

Wippert who credits King for her opportunity says, “She made TERS feel like a home to students. Clarice has a very calming authoritative way that when she speaks you know she is speaking from the heart. She led kids in the right direction that could have gone the wrong way. She ran a tight ship that would sail far and wide. The students respected her because she gave them the uttermost respect. Not only did the students respect her, but they loved her because of her grandmotherly ways.”

“She was one-of-a kind administrator that will forever hold a special place,” she added.

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