Ed. Secretary visits St. Stephen's Tuesday to kick off six-state 'Rethink School Tour'Sep 12, 2017 By Alejandra Silva, Staff Writer
U.S. Secretary of Education Betsy DeVos kicked off her 2017 Rethink School Tour on Tuesday with a visit to St. Stephen's Indian School.
According to the U.S. Department of Education, the visit to SSIS - and a stop earlier in the morning at the Woods Learning Center in Casper - is part of her plan to highlight the ways "local educators are meeting the unique needs of their students."
DeVos toured elementary and high school classes at St. Stephen's before being introduced to the entire student body and faculty in an assembly.
"You have such a wonderful community here," DeVos said. "Make the most out of your school here."
Superintendent Frank No Runner highlighted some of his team's goals for students and staff, including an emphasis on more parent involvement.
DeVos said she was glad to see that the focus at St. Stephen's was on parents and empowering teachers.
"You can't ask for more than that," she said.
In one classroom, second graders were learning math. DeVos kneeled to get closer to the students, who were using number blocks on the floor.
At the high school, she listened in as students learned about the distance between planets.
She then poked her head into the home economics classroom, where students were making pizzas.
She was also able to see bead work done by students and visit local athletes including Trenton Friday from the boys basketball team.
'Rethink your school'
She only swiftly touched on the tour's motto during her assembly speech.
"Kids, if you were asked to rethink your school I bet you would have some great ideas," she said.
Roy Brown of the Northern Arapaho Business Council and Leslie Shakespeare of the Shoshone Business Council also welcomed DeVos.
Shakespeare noted that not all SBC members were eager to visit with DeVos because they don't agree with some of her ideas on education.
DeVos has been criticized for making it a priority to expand charter schools in the United States, and for giving parents more choices as to where their student will attends school - a move that some say could drain resources from the public education system.
"But I respect the fact that you're here," Shakespeare said, noting that public schools on the reservation are also collaborating with private schools, such as Journeys School in Jackson, on a project to rethink how American Indian culture is taught and what students can learn from native culture.
DeVos' visit is part of a six-state tour which includes Colorado, Nebraska, Kansas, Missouri and Indiana.