Sevier School District officials have outlined goals aimed at retaining the Navajo Indian integration program in the district and have adopted a resolution that emphasizes their beliefs in its importance. Results of the goals are expected to materialize by mid-April.
The program has been threatened, because the state will no longer provide funding through the weighted pupil unit for students whose homes are not in Utah. In lieu of that, district officials are trying to find financing from other sources, principally the federal government, to continue educating the Indian students.More than 100 students from the Navajo Indian Reservation have attended schools in the Sevier district each year for some 38 years. Most of them graduated from high school and many have gone on to higher education, finding prominent positions in the business and professional world. Some have returned to the reservation to enhance the education of their people.
In a progress report relative to efforts being made to keep the program in the district, it was emphasized to the school board by administrators that the program has provided Navajo students access to quality schools and cultural experiences beyond reservation boundaries as well as maintaining cultural opportunities in the Sevier School District that otherwise would be lacking.
Activities aimed at finding funding to retain the program may require travel, possibly to Washington, D.C., to obtain the essential audience that is needed, the administration said. "The Bureau of Indian Affairs does not give us a lot of encouragement (in financing) at this point, but it is believed that an attitude adjustment might be obtained when vocal support provided by parents and reservation entities is given."
Two district representatives, who are visiting the reservation for scheduled parent conferences this month, anticipate getting letters of support from the parents for continuation of the program as it currently exists.
Officials are also seeking to get support from chapter house organizations (located in areas of the reservation where students have lived) for resolutions approved by the district, school board and the board for the Indian resident hall that houses students in Richfield.
"Once these activities have come to a positive conclusion, we will then seek audience with the Navajo Division of Education, seeking their consent and approval to maintain the program," administrators stated. "Having established this political base of support, we will then begin negotiations with the BIA to allow weighted pupil units to either flow directly to us following the students or to allow the WPUs to go to the Navajo Nation and then flow through to the Sevier School District."
The resolution of the Sevier School Board and administrators emphasizes the program should be continued and receive funding for the "training, education, socialization and personal benefit of Navajo students, who, as future parents and leaders of the tribe, will have a positive impact culturally, politically and economically on future generations."
Among benefits to students noted in the resolution are the exposure to computer-aided learning systems; language tutoring and curriculum enrichment; the opportunity to earn university credits and develop entry-level job skills at the Sevier Valley Applied Technology Center while in high school; and becoming productive adults professionally and socially who send their children back to the district to receive the same training and background.
The resolution further points out the benefits of bringing a cultural diversity to the south-central Utah area and that students have received quality health care, something that is not always available in remote areas of the reservation.