Health & Education
General Council briefed on Education Department
Education Department Manager Angela Fasana briefed Tribal members on the department’s various programs and accomplishments during a Sunday, Jan. 2, General Council meeting held via the Zoom video conferencing application.
During the meeting, Fasana discussed the methods and challenging aspects of continuing to effectively deliver services during the COVID-19 pandemic, as well as the changes the Education Department has undergone in the past year and its future goals.
“I am really excited to share everything the Education Department has done this past year and I’m honored to work with such an amazing group of people,” she said. “They managed a very difficult situation and brought the best education services they could to the membership.”
Fasana described 2021 as a “rollercoaster ride.”
“We re-opened in March, closed for a bit during the summer and we’re back in person now,” she said. “We are still in COVID-19 response and have been very busy with grant applications. … We have also done a lot of employee support, as it has been a difficult year. We are supporting the health and wellness of our employees.”
Fasana said the Education Department had undergone a reorganization during the past year and revamped Youth Education.
“We had too many functions in Youth Ed and because we were doing so many things, we were struggling,” she said. “We created a new department, Youth Enrichment, and moved curriculum development to Youth Ed and career development to the Higher Education Department.”
Fasana also provided an overview of the Early Childhood, Youth and Higher Education programs, as well as an update on the new Youth Enrichment and Chinuk Language programs.
Some of the highlights included:
- There are 55 students in five pre-school classrooms and 29 students in the home-based program. Current instruction is done in person, although there have been some closures this year with a switch to virtual learning. A child care feasibility study is currently underway, with phase one complete. Other priorities include grant management, staffing and safe outdoor celebrations such as pre-school graduation.
- The Chinuk Language program has substantially increased enrollment from 50 to 70 students. Attendance at the middle/high school program has more than doubled. There are 12 students in the preschool class, 16 in the kindergarten to third-grade class, 36 in the middle/high school classes and six in the community class.
- Youth Education serves 215 students who utilize virtual and in-person academic coaches and advisers, as well as a Shawash Studies class co-taught by Guided Study/Credit Recovery Teacher Adam Langley and Children and Family Support Service Specialist Zoe Holsclaw. It focuses on historical and contemporary Native American issues, culture and language, especially as it relates to the Grand Ronde Tribe, and the resiliency of Native peoples as a whole. It is offered to all Willamina High School students, regardless of Tribal affiliation. Additionally, Tribal member Cheyanne Heidt was hired as the curriculum development specialist in September.
- Youth Enrichment continues its highly popular hihi-lakhaset (fun boxes) activity project, which continues to serve hundreds of students every month, both locally and out of the area. Youth Enrichment employees have created a YouTube channel with a variety of videos to accompany the boxes. Employees also host summer programming, Native clubs, summer youth employment and a youth sponsorship program.
- Higher Education currently has 84 students in bachelor degree programs, 40 in graduate degree programs, 78 in community college programs, 14 in non-credit classes, five enrolled in GED programs and 22 students in education/career coaching.
- The library provided 27 packets for youth in foster care and continues its popular seasonal literacy programs. It also provides after school programming, curbside check-outs for books and DVDs, as well as mobile library services for those who cannot do curbside pickup.
Fasana said that goals for 2022 include literacy, emergency management, records management and outreach. To learn more about the Education Department, visit grandronde.org/services/education.
Fasana took 13 questions and comments from the online audience. Tribal Council member Michael Cherry said the outreach services offered by the department, such as academic coaching, were even more important during the pandemic.
“I want to commend you and your staff for the services you provide,” she said. “Now more than ever, the outreach portion is so important to our youth.”
In other action, Spirit Mountain Casino General Manager Bruce Thomas gave an impromptu update on various casino projects, including a newly opened Italian restaurant, Amore, formally known as The Legends. There are discussions underway to add other restaurants to the casino’s offerings in 2022 as well.
It was announced that the next General Council meeting will be held at 11 a.m. Sunday, Feb. 6, at a location to be determined, with a program report from the Natural Resources Department.
Door prize winners were Simone Auger, Perri McDaniel, Kateri Marrufo, Veronica Gaston and Shawn Haggerty, $50 each; and Joanna Brisbois, Val Alexander and Jesse Norton, $100 each.
The Elders Committee election results were also announced, with Daniel Hamm, Linda Brandon and Tammy Cook being elected to the committee.
The entire meeting can be viewed by visiting the Tribal government’s website at www.grandronde.org and clicking on the Government tab and then Videos.