Wadookodaading School Board responds to accusations

Wednesday, October 18, 2017 | by Joe Morey |

Members of the Waadookodaading School board of directors said Thursday, October 12, there is a lot of misinformation circulating in the community in regards to the relationship between the Ojibwe language institute and the LCO Ojibwe K-12 School.

The board members said the language school is not “stealing” from the LCO School and they also explained why some of their teachers may earn a larger wage than teachers of the LCO School.

The two schools merged in 2014 after Waadookodaading ended their Charter with the Hayward Community School District.

Waadookodaading board chairman, Jason Schlender, said the language school felt they weren’t receiving a large enough share of the money Hayward received from the state. He said $11,500 was allocated per student and only $2,075 was forwarded to the school. Schlender said Rick St. Germaine, who was the LCO Director of Education at the time, made a presentation to the tribe about merging the schools and that LCO would receive $26,000 per student from the Bureau of Indian Education (BIE).

“We were already pursuing a more stabilized funding source,” Brooke Ammann said. Ammann is the school’s director. “We were looking for ways to keep the school open.”

A Memorandum of Understanding was developed by the tribal governing board and submitted to the BIE creating the partnership between the two schools.

Schlender explained how the MOU was developed with a two-track educational system in mind.

The MOU states, “One track which all academic content is delivered in the Ojibwe Language through an Indigenous language medium model (Wadookodaading), and the second in which academic content is delivered in the English language through a culturally based educational model (LCO School).”

The MOU established that both schools would operate as they have with their own titles and school boards.

Dusty Burnette of the language school said it wasn’t an agreement that only benefitted the Wadookodaading School. He explained how enrollment was down at the LCO School while their numbers were up at the time of the merger.

“LCO School was set up for 300 students and currently there are 204 students registered there,” Burnette said.

In 2014, Wadookodaading School had enrollment numbers of 86 in 2014, although their numbers are currently at 64 enrolled students.

“They were struggling with basic services, such as busing and special education,” Burnette said. “By enrolling our students it helped them provide those basic services. We receive 10% of the funds and have 30% of the students.”

Burnette said there is a perception in the community that Wadookodaading is “stealing” from the students of the LCO School by taking money from the school to pay for the language school. He said LCO School is the fiscal agent for the language school. “We can’t touch the money until they give it to us,” Burnette said.

According to Brooke Ammann’s report to the board of directors, the school receives $345,993 from the BIE Indian Student Equalization Program (ISEP) funding. She said there other federal funding sources as well, but only about 50% of the language school’s budget comes from federal funds and the other half comes from private sources such as the Kellogg Foundation and other tribes. For example, the Mole Lake Chippewa Tribe gives the school $10,000 annually.

Ammann explained that the LCO School is 100% federally funded.

“Our school has many other functions such as teacher development and community outreach, and part of my job as director is to make sure we get the funding for these other functions,” Amman said.

Another reason members of the community have shown contempt towards the school is because Wadookodaading teachers, on average, make more money than the LCO Ojibwe School teachers do. Burnette said teachers that do get paid more may have a higher education and/or more experience than LCO School teachers.

“There are some LCO School teachers that do get paid more,” Burnette said. “It’s a person-by-person breakdown determined by each school board.”

Burnette explained how at LCO School the teachers can buy the curriculum off the shelves, but there are no books that teach science in the Ojibwe language.

“Our teachers have to actually develop the curriculum,” Burnette said. “We have completely different job descriptions. Our teachers may work a lot more.”

One of the instructors at the Wadookodaading School, Dr. Mike Sullivan, explained how he asked one of the LCO School teachers in regards to the different pay, “Do you participate in the 21st Century teachers program, and she said yes, and asked do you get paid for it, and she said yes, and I asked if another teacher got paid for it who doesn’t participate in the program, and she said no.”

Sullivan explained to her how she worked more so she got paid more because of her participation in that extra program. It’s the same for Wadookodaading teachers who have to develop an entire curriculum in the Ojibwe language.

“How do you teach Science in our language,” he said. “We not only teach, but we develop curriculums and we are assessors.”

The entire curriculum at the Wadookodaading School is taught in Ojibwe Language.

“That is a huge misconception,” Burnette said. “We are not just a language class. We teach math, science and other curriculum all in the Ojibwe language.”

The MOU states it recognizes that, “Wadookodaading is to create proficient speakers of the Ojibwe language who are able to meet the challenges of our rapidly changing world.”

The MOU also states that the curriculum is based on national and state standards while remaining relevant to local history and custom.

Burnette pointed out that the LCO School administrators and teacher assistants pay scale is much more in their favor than at the language school.

Schlender said Wadookodaading School is unique in that it is preserving the Ojibwe language. “We get visits from people all over that come here to see what we do. Just yesterday there was a group of 15 people here from Treaty 3 First Nations in Canada. We are sort of a leader in what we do… language revitilization.”

Language instructor Keller Paap said, “This is our community and we are here for the kids. People should feel welcome to come here and see what we do.”

Board member Nick Hanson said when the school has an assembly, “It’s an amazing thing to see all these kids in the gym speaking the language and racing to get on the drum. It’s very energetic and the kids are all excited. It’s something you really have to see.”

According to Ammann’s report, there are 60 enrolled students, of which 58% are Lac Courte Oreilles enrolled, 13% from Ho Chunk, 7% from Mille Lacs, 7% from Red Cliff and 5% from Bad River. There are other tribes as well.

Ammann also reported to the board the school was just awarded a $406,000 inaugural Native American Language grant.

“The feds listened. We said what we needed to make this work,” Ammann said.

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