RAPID CITY, S.D. — Native American students see higher rates of disciplinary action, lower state assessment scores, and the lowest four- and five-year graduation rates compared to other students. To address this, the Rapid City Area School District formed an Indigenous Education Task Force at the request of the Title VI Indian Education Parent Advisory Council. The council began meeting bi-weekly in February, working to address the educational experience, learning environment, and outcomes for Indigenous students in the district.
“The work of the Indigenous Education Task Force is not easy and requires all of us to listen with open hearts and minds as week seek to learn and understand and work together to improve the educational experience and outcomes for our Indigenous students. The time is now, and the work is urgent,” said Superintendent Dr. Lori Simon.
The task force will present a final report with recommendations to the Superintendent next fall, and a new task force will be created to develop the District’s next Strategic Plan. Recommendations for improvement will be offered in areas such as integration of the Oceti Sakowin Essential Understandings (OSEU’s) in relevant areas of K – 12 curriculum, ways to track implementation and their efficacy, a Lakota Language and Culture Immersion School, and for staff recruitment and retention. RCAS is currently working to develop a Lakota Language and Culture Immersion pilot to begin next fall.
Dr. Lori Simon also said, “We know that we’ve got a lot more work to do at the front end of high school so that we are putting more supports in place for our indigenous students so that they can really be successful and graduate from high school.”
The District is also asking for feedback; a survey link has been sent to all Native American RCAS families and is open through April 25.
Valeriah Big Eagle, Title IV Indian Education Parent Advisory Council President, said, “As task force members ourselves, we might think these things, you know, is what is needed in the school district, wut we also want to hear what our public feels and thinks as well. The Native American community and parents and the youth, the youth is so important and their voice is needed.”
The Indigenous Education Task Force members are:
- Dr. Lori Simon – Superintendent & Co-Facilitator
- Valeriah Big Eagle – Title VI Indian Education PAC Chairperson & Co-Facilitator
- Tatewin Means – Title VI Indian Education PAC Vice Chairperson
- Curt Pochardt – RCAS School Board President
- Clay Colombe – RCAS School Board member
- Synova Nicolaisen, Director of Human Resources
- Angel Lee, Title VI Indian Education Manager
- Nicole Keegan, Staff Development Manager
- Katey Swank, Teaching, Learning & Innovation Specialist
- Chanda Spotted Eagle – RCAS principal
- Karen Mortimer, Director of Mniluzahan Okolakiciyapi Ambassadors
- Jessica Rogers – Assistant City Attorney