Tribes may mediate schools agreement

The Confederated Tribes have been trying to negotiate a new long-term education agreement with the Jefferson County School District 509-J.

This has been an on-going process yet to be resolved. Meanwhile the district is following an agreement that is past due for renewal.

The tribes may request the matter be put to mediation. This would be through the Oregon Department of Education.

Tribal Council met last week with school district board members and the tribal Education Committee.

Part of the discussion was in regard to the property at the previous elementary school campus, including teachers’ row.

Tribal Council appointed Chairman Austin Greene Jr. and Secretary-Treasurer Michele Stacona as representatives to negotiate on behalf of the tribes.

The property was subject to a long-term lease with the school district. The arrangement is no longer needed since the 2014 opening of the Warm Springs k-8 Academy. Councilman Ron Suppah suggested a resolution be reached at least by the end of this year, and the parties agreed.

Discussion then turned to the overall education agreement, or memorandum of understanding, between the tribes and the district.

The current five-year agreement was supposed to expire last summer. But because no new agreement has been reached, the district continues to operate under this understanding.

Last year the previous Tribal Council appointed the Education Committee to negotiate terms of a new agreement. The committee developed a detailed proposal, but was not able to reach an agreement with the district.

The current Tribal Council then took office, and appointed two new members to the Education Committee. There is still no agreement, and mediation may be the best solution, said Deanie Smith, Culture and Heritage project supervisor, and Education Committee member.

The problem with the current agreement is its general vagueness, Ms. Smith said. There are state and federal standards that apply to Indian education, and these should be addressed in the new agreement, she said.

Tribal Council next week is scheduled to meet with April Campbell, Indian Education Advisor with the Oregon Department of Education. The meeting should help determine whether mediation is necessary.

Some of the issues that need to be resolved are fundamental. For instance at the meeting last week there was discussion of having a charter school or high school in Warm Springs.

This is not a solution to the issues now facing the district, Councilwoman Carina Miller said.