American Indian Education Committee has room to grow in ISD 192When the Farmington School District’s American Indian Education Committee met recently, only three parents showed up. But Barb Duffrin was encouraged nonetheless.
By: Nathan Hansen, The Farmington Independent
When the Farmington School District’s American Indian Education Committee met recently, only three parents showed up. But Barb Duffrin was encouraged nonetheless.
School districts are required to establish a committee when they have 10 or more American Indian students. At the most basic level, the meetings are an opportunity for parents to have input on everything from content standards to curriculum to the resources the district offers to prepare American Indian students for post-secondary education.
District 192 held its first American Indian Education Committee meeting three years ago and drew a small group of parents. For the next two years, though, nobody showed up. This year’s attendance was small, but Duffrin, the district’s director of educational programs, liked the group’s enthusiasm. The parents who participated said they would try to recruit others to join, and Duffrin hopes the committee will grow.
“It was certainly a small group, but it was a very engaged group,” Duffrin said. “Lots of great questions. Perspectives that we needed to consider that perhaps we haven’t previously.
“I think they’re really very thoughtful about everything, too. That’s the other thing that is really encouraging to me.”
The main issues discussed at this year’s meeting focused on curriculum – some parents were concerned that lessons on Native American history had the same us-versus-them tone they recalled from lessons when they were growing up – and on the assistance the district can offer Native American students as they prepare for life after high school.
It was a good discussion, Duffrin said, and it’s one she hopes will continue.
Exactly what form the American Indian Education Committee takes can vary widely from district to district. In some, it is a bare-bones offering like Farmington has had in recent years. Others offer much more.
The Rosemount-Apple Valley-Eagan School District, which has a much larger student population than Farmington, has two paid employees to work with a committee that plans a wide range of events for the Native American community.
The Rosemount district has about 180 Native American students. Farmington’s population varies depending on the guidelines you use. Under state guidelines the district has 30 American Indian students. Under federal guidelines, which allow students to claim more than one ethnicity, there are 60 students.
Whatever the number, it’s a population that has opinions Duffrin wants to hear.
“We talk about customizing education for all students,” she said. “Certainly part of that is having a good understanding of where students are coming from and their backgrounds.”
Duffrin has looked to the Rosemount district’s committee as well as a number of others around Minnesota to find ideas for the group’s future in Farmington.
“I called this poor man at the department of education way too many times and asked him way too many questions,” Duffrin said. “He’s been way too nice to me.”
Ultimately, Duffrin hopes the parents who get involved will help determine what the committee becomes. Whatever that is, Duffrin is excited to see it happen.