Village News Reporter
The Bonsall Unified School District and the Pala Band of Mission Indians will be working with each other to enhance the school district’s ability to provide educational accomplishments for Pala Tribe members.
The BUSD board voted 5-0 June 21 to approve a memorandum of understanding with the Pala Tribe that outlines shared, district and Tribal responsibilities.
“Any time we can partner with a local organization to increase services and opportunities for students, we pursue those,” said BUSD superintendent Joseph Clevenger.
“I really am happy about this situation,” said Pala Tribal Council member and BUSD board member Eric Ortega.
The MOU will facilitate the communication of information necessary to improve student achievement and connection to school. “This will basically put a direct communication to schools and open up lines of communication,” Clevenger said.
Clevenger explained that the state and the Federal government provide information, which allows the school district to optimize support of demographic groups but that Indian reservations do not automatically provide that information.
“The tribe wants to help out,” Ortega said.
“It took us a while to figure out how to actually do it,” Ortega said. “Now we can actually direct those resources more precisely.”
The school district already operates Vivian Banks Charter School on the Pala Indian Reservation, and the Tribe has previously provided financial support to the school district. The school district and the Pala Tribe have collaborated for cultural education sessions.
“This is going to increase all that, so it’s pretty cool,” Ortega said.
“We’re super grateful for continued support and collaboration with the goal of doing great things for kids,” Clevenger said.
“We have a great partner,” Clevenger said. “They continue to provide incredible support.
The objectives of the communication collaboration include increasing student attendance and graduation rates, decreasing dropout and truancy rates, and providing learning resources to enhance students’ understanding of Tribal values and culture.
“This is a very uncommon practice,” Clevenger said. “This was a really unique innovative opportunity for the kids.”
The shared responsibilities in addition to working cooperatively to ensure appropriate and efficient communication in support of the MOU include attending meetings and related functions related to accomplishing the objectives of the MOU. This includes, but isn’t limited to, the Indian Education Meeting between the parties to ensure that Tribal children in the school district receive the appropriate level of educational attention and support.
Other responsibilities include sharing information about students’ attendance and their successes and challenges with the intent of improving programs and increasing graduation rates, continuing outreach and coordinating services at BUSD schools through the education specialists provided by the Tribe and the school district, and coordinating efforts to help Tribal families navigate appropriate personnel, policies and procedures, and program opportunities.
Student records the school district shares with Pala will be limited to directory information under the Family Educational Rights and Privacy Act, and Pala agrees to safeguard and protect that information.
The school district’s responsibilities include inviting Tribal staff to attend district trainings pertaining to attendance, truancy, at-risk students and need of extra services. The district on a monthly basis will assess and share student attendance information with the Tribe to determine the extent to which Tribal students are participating on an equal basis with other students in BUSD classes, programs and activities; those disclosures will be limited to “directory information,” which is information contained in a student record that would not generally be considered harmful or an invasion of privacy if disclosed.
The school district will identify and appoint district personnel committed to working with Tribal Education staff to monitor and report on Tribal school attendance. The district will refer Native American students and families to the district’s and the Tribe’s education staff when students are identified as at-risk, truant or in need of extra services.
The district will also make its best efforts to reduce Tribal student truancy and consider whether educational services require modification for Native American students to ensure equal access and participation. The district will participate in joint training sessions involving Tribal and district staff.
The Tribe’s responsibilities also include participation in joint training between Tribal and district staff on educational assistance to students and families. The Tribe will notify all eligible families about educational services provided by the Tribe and will collaborate with BUSD staff, parents and students to encourage increased student attendance and meaningful participation in school.
The Tribe will also provide training and technical assistance regarding the Tribe’s educational programs to district staff if necessary. The Tribe will not disclose directory information received from the district to any other party without the prior consent of the parent or eligible student.
Ortega added that specifics will be altered as situations arise. “We’re going to have to tweak it as it moves along,” he said.