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Indian Education Committee meeting pushes back member election

By Adriana Fehrs

Ronan/Pablo Indian Education Committee members Ellen Rose Big Crane (L), Miranda Burland (C), and Ron Couture held a meeting late into the night August 6. Main issues centered around parent involvement. (Adriana Fehrs photo)  Ronan/Pablo Indian Education Committee members Ellen Rose Big Crane (L), Miranda Burland (C), and Ron Couture held a meeting late into the night August 6. Main issues centered around parent involvement. (Adriana Fehrs photo)

PABLO — The Ronan/Pablo Indian Education Committee (IEC) met on Wednesday August 6, to elect new committee members. Unfortunately, an evident lack of participants present at the meeting has pushed the election to next month. Still, there was plenty for the committee to cover at their meeting.

After the meeting was called to order, Tracy Morigeau-Frank, of the Flathead Human Rights Coalition and Julia Williams, of Friends Forever Mentoring, were the first to hold to floor.

Morigeau wanted to spread the word about a ‘Communication Training for Families’ workshop hosted by Joyful Connections, and sponsored by the Flathead Human Rights Coalition with a grant from the Oleta ‘Pete’ Smith Foundation. The hands-on learning is aimed at teaching families how to avoid obstacles to effective communication, offer and receive gratitude, make family time more fun, and how to work with family conflicts in the moment.

The workshops will take place on Saturday, September 27 at the Mission Valley United Methodist Church on Hwy 93 outside of St. Ignatius, and Friday October 24 at the Salish Kootenai College (SKC) Camas Room in the Joe McDonald Building in Pablo. Both events are scheduled from 9 a.m. to 4 p.m. and are free and open to the public. A light lunch will be provided. To pre-register call (406) 745-4259.

Williams, Friends Forever Mentoring Executive Director, then took the floor to give updates on her program. The native owned nonprofit organization disassociated itself with the Big Brothers Big Sisters program over two years ago, but operations remain the same. “A lot of the children we mentor are failing academically, but what we see is a lot of social problems,” says Williams. The program serves 130 students in the school year, about 76 percent of the mentees and 45 percent of mentors are Native American.

Tracy Morigeau-Frank (L), of the Flathead Human Rights Coalition and Julia Williams (R), of Friends Forever Mentoring, were the first to hold to floor at the Ronan/Pablo Indian Education Committee meeting on August 6. Both gave updates on their program activities. (Adriana Fehrs photo)  Tracy Morigeau-Frank (L), of the Flathead Human Rights Coalition and Julia Williams (R), of Friends Forever Mentoring, were the first to hold to floor at the Ronan/Pablo Indian Education Committee meeting on August 6. Both gave updates on their program activities. (Adriana Fehrs photo)

In their 2014 school year assessment, the program has seen improvements in many areas. Of the 36 elementary mentees, an average of 68 percent saw an increase in their confidence, such as the ability to make decisions and express feelings. 61 percent saw an increase in their competence such as class participation and classroom behavior; 66 percent saw an increase in their caring abilities, such as showing trust and respecting cultures; and 100 percent improved in their academics.

The 35 high school mentors experienced an 81 percent increase in confidence; 81 percent increased in their competency skills; and 88 percent increased in their caring abilities.

Williams says, “To these elementary kids, high-schoolers seem like rock stars to them. And with these matches, we really see a positive difference in these children.”

Williams then requested financial support from the IEC in order to support more matches in additional schools. The committee showed interest and further partnership will be discussed.

Friends Forever Mentoring serves children in Ronan, Pablo, Arlee, and Hot Springs Schools. For more information on the program, call (406) 883-2150.

Once the welcomed guest presented their programs, the committee moved on to the topic of electing new committee members.

At least two additional members are needed to fill positions on the IEC board. The committee stated that they will elect members and then later appoint positions.

Miranda Burland, IEC vice-chair, asked Ron Couture, IEC Chair, if he will continue is position as chair on the committee. Couture announced he is stepping down from his position as well as from the committee altogether. “I want to be able to give this [committee] all that I can, and right now I can’t possibly do that. We need someone up here that can give their efforts fully to this committee,” says Couture.

Linda Ferris, IEC member, says she can step up as the IEC Secretary/Treasury position.

Due to the lack of present participants, the Ronan/Pablo IEC is postponing the election until September 3. In the meantime, the committee is searching for way to reach out to the community in order to gain parent participation.

Ronan/Pablo Indian Education Committee members Ellen Rose Big Crane (L), Miranda Burland (C), and Ron Couture planned to elect new members on August 6, but because of the lack of present participants, the Ronan/Pablo IEC is postponing the election until September 3. (Adriana Fehrs photo) Ronan/Pablo Indian Education Committee members Ellen Rose Big Crane (L), Miranda Burland (C), and Ron Couture planned to elect new members on August 6, but because of the lack of present participants, the Ronan/Pablo IEC is postponing the election until September 3. (Adriana Fehrs photo)

Ferris provided ideas to gain parent involvement. Ronan has 500 JOM eligible children, students whose blood quantum equals ? degree or more of Indian blood from a federally recognized Tribe, but parent involvement with the IEC remains little to none.

Mailing out surveys and posting on school bulletin boards were the first suggestion. Gift cards as an incentive for survey responses was also addressed.

Limited funding is an issue, but parent involvement is a priority for the IEC. “We tried a lot of tactics to get parent involvement. It’s a priority, and it’s hard when kids have different activities during the school year; sports take up a lot of time, but it’s important that we are constantly reaching out to parents,” says Couture.

The IEC holds the voting rights and oversees how the monies for JOM are spent. They determine the parent needs off of the Needs Assessment (Parent Survey) that is done at least every two years. Only parents of JOM eligible students are able to vote on the spending of JOM funds. The next IEC meeting will be held on Wednesday, September 3 at 6 p.m. at the Late Louie Caye Sr. Building at SKC.

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