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Superintendents share success stories from schools on rez

Jul 28, 2014 By Alejandra Silva, Staff Writer

The Wyoming Legislature's Select Committee on Tribal Relations heard from two reservation school superintendents recently at Central Wyoming College. Superintendents Mike Hejtmanek, of St. Stephen's Indian School, and Terry Ebert of Fremont County School District 21, updated the committee on college credit courses and ongoing plans for a new school.

St. Stephen's

Hejtmanek told the committee that a partnership with the CWC Board of Cooperative Higher Educational Services has helped students from St. Stephen's and Arapaho Charter High School earn up to nine college credits. This initiative also was made possible with the construction of a vocational room adjacent to the school, Hejtmanek said.

"We're really proud with what's happening," he said.

The room's construction was paid for with district funds and first offered introductory courses in math and English. Students then moved on to small engine repair and maintenance courses.

Hejtmanek said students soon will take woodworking classes.

The school receives funding from the Bureau of Indian Education, and Hejtmanek said he recently learned the district ranks first for "successful schools" out of the 183 that are served by the BIE.

He also reported on the improving graduation rates and funding provided to teachers who obtain advanced degrees.

Fort Washakie

Ebert praised his district's emphasis on instilling tribal culture in Fort Washakie's students.

"We know that the Native American culture for students is important for student success," Ebert said.

The district also has focused on programs to improve the reading ability of students while facilitating training for teachers. Ebert said the school will continue to focus on teachers and their professional development and lessons designed to improve student achievement.

The district held a grant-funded summer school program in June, Ebert said. Two other enrichment programs --a summer wilderness program for high school students with the National Outdoor Leadership School and another with the Jackson Campus of Teton Science Schools --will take place in July and August.

Planning for the new pre-K-8 and high school buildings has passed the 10 percent point in the design phase, Ebert said.

Rep. Lloyd Larsen, R-Lander, asked him if students are transferring to other schools after completing the eighth grade. Ebert said nearly 50 percent stay in the district, but administrators expect that percentage to increase after the new schools are completed. Ebert said most students transfer to schools in Lander or Ethete. He added that the new schools will have a vocational instruction unit.

Committee co-chairman Rep. Patrick Goggles, D-Ethete, congratulated the schools on their 2014 graduates and agreed that including the native culture and language creates a "more well-rounded" student.

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