State Superintendent tours Gila River Indian Community

Christopher Lomahquahu

Gila River Indian News


A special guest from the Arizona Department of Education made a stop to three of the Gila River Indian Community’s schools. State Superintendent Kathy Hoffman and her staff toured the Community’s schools on Oct. 17.

Hoffman’s visit was to learn about how the Community is building an education system to meet a higher standard, while incorporating culture in its curriculum. “We understand the need for culturally accurate curriculum. It’s very inspiring to see how hands-on and how students benefit from it,” said Hoffman.


Hoffman, has worked within the public education system as a pre-school teacher and speech pathologist, through her position as Superintendent, she has advocated for the higher standards of education for students from various backgrounds. 


“We have been talking about wanting to integrate culture into the school’s curriculum, not as an add-on,” said Tribal Education Director Isaac Salcido. He said the integration of O’otham teachers and education has taken-off through such initiatives like M.O.R.E (More O’otham in Regular Education).


Steven Heeley, Consultant for Akin Gump Strauss Hauer & Feld LLP, gave Hoffman an overview of the new Gila Crossing Community School. “The school has a total of 548 students enrolled, but was designed for 750, with the idea of having growth in enrollment and giving parents an opportunity to enroll their kid in the Community.”


Hoffman asked about the recruitment of educators to the school and how that marries with the school’s mission to support the level of education given to students at GCCS. “We choose to be here, because I believe there is a difference, that can be made. We try our very best to recruit Native American teachers, but we also recruit at the three universities and out of state as well,” Jim Mosely GCCS Superintendent.   


“We have a long history of family and community involvement with the Bureau of Indian Affairs on education. The real strength is the Community support, which you can see [here],” said Gov. Stephen Roe Lewis, when asked about the relationship with the BIA.


The tour, made its way to Casa Blanca Community School to hear from the schools’ principal Kim Franklin, about how they are incorporating O’otham culture in the curriculum into the student education.

Hoffman also met with the CBCS education board to hear how they play a role in the education of students and their children, who attend the school. Later they toured one of the school’s early education rooms and garden, before heading to Sacaton.


“One of the things, that we feel is most special about our school is the role the parents play in what we do,” said Franklin. She said their school should be a product of where it is located, by incorporating culture and language, that surrounds the students. Franklin said, “We know it’s critical within in a Native American school, we to have that relationship between them, their settings and culture.” 

After a visit to the school’s library to meet with the CBCS education board and get an overview of their cultural curriculum, Hoffman was shown around the campuses early education rooms before her next stop in Sacaton.


“We are the only public-school entity that resides out here on the Gila River Indian Community, our goal is to strengthen that relationship with the Community,” said Cherryl Paul Sacaton Elementary School District Superintendent.


Paul and members of the Sacaton Elementary School District, shared with Hoffman, the school’s Science, Technology, Engineering and Mathematics initiative, that includes arts and agriculture into the curriculum.

Hoffman, would conclude her visit to the Community at the Viola Johnson Administrative Building, where she heard presentations from TED staff on developing reading skills at a young age and their efforts to support cultural teachings at each of the schools within GRIC.