Governor’s Education Summit examines GRIC education
April 7, 2023
The new Casa Blanca Community School was the host site for the 8th Annual Governor’s Education Summit Saturday, March 25. Students, parents, school members, stakeholders, and Community members came together for the summit, providing spaces for everyone to share ideas about the Community’s education system, examine challenges, and highlight successes.
This year’s summit is the first in-person summit since 2020. The last two summits were held virtually due to the pandemic.
“When I started these summits, eight years ago, it was to keep a consistent focus on the education of our students,” said Gov. Stephen Roe Lewis at the opening, “The summits allow us a chance to gather, take a measure of where we’re at, collaborate, and discuss next steps we can all work on to improve the education for all our students.”
During her morning remarks, Lt. Gov. Monica Antone said, “We are blessed to have as many schools as we do here in the Community, so I thank our leadership for always keeping our students in mind, establishing the 105(l) lease, and building these beautiful schools like Casa Blanca [Community School] here today.”
Casa Blanca Community School and Gila Crossing Community School are two new schools constructed since 2019 using the 105(l) lease.
And in 2021, a new Blackwater Community School was established in District 1.
Hollie J. Mackey, associate professor of education at North Dakota State University, served as the keynote speaker for the morning. Her keynote provided some learnings for the Community to consider as stakeholders in the Community’s education system.
“We must consider the process just as much as the product when it comes to education, yes we want our children to succeed but if the process of success costs their mental and emotional health, we should also address that,” said Mackey.
Recalling a personal story, Mackey alluded to a scolding she received when attempting to speak her native language and mispronounced a word. The experience, or the process of learning her language, led to her not wanting to talk in public again. She cited this as an example of how educators should consider how they’re providing quality instruction for students that don’t come at the cost of causing unwanted harm or anxiety.
Later, attendees were broken up into smaller groups at the summit. The spaces allowed facilitators to provide guided conversations on a “Landscape Analysis of Education at Gila River.” Separate groups for students, another for school staff, board members, administrators, and teachers, and the last group comprised parents, guardians, and grandparents.
The breakout sessions are a hallmark of the summit as they allow stakeholders from across the Community to come together and learn from one another, something that doesn’t regularly occur outside the summit.
Students answered prompts focused on their experiences for their breakout session. For example, one question was, “What are you most proud of when you think about your schooling?” Shared responses included grades, cultural education, family, and school/teacher support.
Similarly, the breakout for school administrators addressed questions about the challenges they face, the basic skills they want students to have when graduating, and their school priorities overall. In addition, they expressed many priorities for students to feel safe and cared for, building a network of board members from all schools, sharing best practices, and accountability from school boards.
Before concluding the summit, Jolyana Begay-Kroupa, CEO of Phoenix Indian Center, provided an afternoon keynote. As a language teacher, she offered lessons about language revitalization for families and cultural teachers. Key takeaways include encouraging and promoting language and culture, surrounding yourself with fluent speakers, joining Community-based language efforts, and respecting elders willing to teach.
“I’m so happy to have heard such great conversation during our breakout sessions. I hope we all learned something from one another, let’s leave with a renewed sense of purpose and carry that forward after today,” said Gov. Lewis at the conclusion of the summit.