By Carla O’Day
The Washoe County School District Board of Trustees heard a report on the Title VI Indian Education Program during its meeting Tuesday at Jesse Hall Elementary School in Sparks.
The program through the federal Bureau of Indian Education provides financial assistance to school districts. Title VI funds graduation advocates, tutors, books, summer school, and after school care buses, among other resources.
Trustees hold a board meeting annually at a school close to tribal land.
Prior to the meeting in the school’s cafeteria, trustees held a meet-and-greet with Paiute instructors and their students, Eagle Wings Dancers and Young Chief Singers. The Reno-Sparks Indian Colony also provided a cultural meal.
Tiffany Young, coordinator for equity and diversity, and Chelsey Solemsaas, Indian education specialist, put together the presentation. It expanded on the ongoing relationship between the district and the Pyramid Lake Paiute Tribe, Reno-Sparks Indian Colony, and Nevada Urban Indians.
There are 944 American Indian students enrolled in Washoe County schools this year, which makes up about 1.5 percent of the district’s population. About two-thirds of them qualify for free or reduced-price lunches, according to district data.
Highest concentrations of American Indian students are at Natchez Elementary School in Wadsworth, which is 89 percent American Indian; followed by Hall Elementary, which is almost 14 percent American Indian.
Graduation rates among American Indian students have lagged behind the district as a whole but have improved in recent years. Among the class of 2016, 66 percent of American Indian students graduated in four years with a standard diploma, compared to 77 percent districtwide. The numbers for American Indians were 52 percent in 2015 and 48 percent in 2014, compared to 75 percent and 73 percent districtwide those years.
“It’s not one specific thing (that increased graduation rates among American Indians),” Young said. “There’s been stronger collaboration around education.”
In Other Action
In effort to cover a $30 million to $40 million financial deficit, the district’s human resources staff launched a Special Early Separation Incentive Plan this month, which could be utilized to avoid potential layoffs and to obtain salary savings.
As of this week, 62 certified employees requested to retire under this plan, which would save about $1.5 million. Also, in the event the district has a surplus of teachers, vacant positions created by the plan could be utilized for displaced employees.