Health & Education

Tribe seeks input regarding possible 2024 opening of charter school

11.14.2023 Katherine Warren Education


By Katherine Warren

Smoke Signals staff member

About 30 people attended a 90-minute community input meeting regarding the Tribe opening a charter school on Thursday, Nov. 9, in Tribal Council Chambers.

Curriculum and Personal Development Program Manager Justine Flynn and Shawash Academic Teacher Adam Langley were the presenters with Tribal Council Chief of Staff Stacia Hernandez managing the ZOOM link.

The Grand Ronde Tribe has been thinking of opening its own charter school since at least 2019 when Tribal members voted in favor of the idea 643-549 during an advisory vote.

In January, Tribal Council approved a professional services agreement for a charter school feasibility study with GLAS Architects of Eugene. The firm was contracted to examine options, such as opening a kindergarten through fifth-grade or kindergarten through 12th-grade school, and also examine operational models and funding possibilities.

Flynn said there are three phases that staff have determined and provided a QR code to a survey link for community members to provide input as to what they would like to see as well as what they think about the phased process.

Phase 1 would feature kindergarten through sixth-grade students attending a full day with three full-time teachers, three assistants and one special education case manager. Flynn said the school could start teaching Tribal students as early as the 2024-25 school year with full days looking like 8 a.m. to 2 p.m. The first phase has its challenges, she added, such as staffing increases as well as what to do about food services.

Phase 2 would be open enrollment across kindergarten through sixth grade having one classroom per grade. Educational offerings would continue with the language/culture model with math and science instruction included and having a homeroom staff. It would require hiring four more teachers and four more assistants. The second phase also would mean expansion of food services as well as transportation.

During these two phases, Flynn said the Tribe will need to continue to push for legislation with the state of Oregon for school compacts that are similar to Tribal compacts in Washington state. Staff are also investigating infrastructure that supports seventh- through 12th-grade students and how to support athletics whether on the Tribal campus or with a local school district, such as Willamina.

Flynn said a compact school is a model that needs to pass through state legislation and would operate similar to state-Tribal compact schools in Washington. It would authorize federally recognized Tribes to create schools through a compact with the state and the Tribe would maintain full control of the school while having guidance and regulations directly with the state.

Phase 3 is dependent on infrastructure at the Early Education building, Flynn said. The Tribe already has two staff members who teach social studies and language. The Tribe also has other departments that can help support Tribal student needs, such as Natural Resources for science and Culture for art.

The next step for Phase 1 is a survey for community members to fill out and working with the Language Program staff to plan expanded days, Flynn said.

Tribal member Peter Grout asked if the Grand Ronde Tribe was looking at partnering with other Tribes to get more footing with potential legislation?

Tribal Council member Denise Harvey said that some Oregon Tribes have a charter school and they have a contract and can’t get out of it for quite some time, such as the Umatilla Tribe in eastern Oregon.

“Lisa Leno and I will be at the NCAI (National Congress of American Indians) conference and there will be Tribes from Washington so there will be people we can talk to about these issues,” Harvey said.

Education Manager Angela Fasana said the Tribe is on the right path to open a charter school in September 2024.