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Chairmen criticize Indian Education Program plan

WASHINGTON ñ The Office of Indian Education Programs will undergo an adjustment in staffing intended to improve the system and provide greater technical assistance to teachers and administrators.

Education Line Offices will be changed and some tribal leaders, especially in the Plains, are against removing line officers from the affected schools.

ìWhat it really is in large part is a relatively minor adjustment of staffing. One of the things found missing in the Indian Education Program is senior management to provide guidance,î said James Cason, associate deputy secretary of the Interior Department and architect of the reorganization plan.

Cason said there are now 100 people working in the line office areas across the country and that after the realignment there will be the same number. He said the change will be to get higher grade people in the offices that have experience and knowledge enough to offer technical assistance.

He said an education line office may have one officer and a secretary, as ìitís obvious the secretary does not offer technical assistance.î

In the Plains states, six line offices would be consolidated into three ñ one in North Dakota and the other two in South Dakota. The Great Plains Chairmenís Association and schools associated with the tribes have openly opposed the reorganization. The chairmen want the line officers to remain closer to the schools so that direct management services would not be reduced.

ìThe principle issue is the concern for changing the status quo. When you step away from it and look at the level of commitment, we are actually adding staff in terms of full time.

ìWe are placing higher graded people in the offices and adding money. Both North and South Dakota will get a higher commitment from us,î Cason said.

The decision to reorganize the system came out of the Adequate Yearly Progress reports of the schools. Cason said in the Plains, only one-third of the students achieved the AYP standards. ìThe tribes want to preserve the 20 percent success rate. Eighty percent did not pass.

ìIt seems to me that going through the exercise there is not a stellar record to preserve. How can we change the school system to get better results? We are looking at a basket of tools. One of the tools is upgrading the quality of technical assistance,î Cason said.

An education line officer in the Plains typically is a ìGS 13;î the new line officers will be GS 15. Instead of a secretary, Cason added, the department is looking at GS 14 FTEs that will also provide technical assistance.

The tribal leaders argue that it will cost an additional $11 million to carry out the plan and fear money will come from much needed education program dollars.

Cason said additional funds were acquired for the purpose of the higher grade officers, no program funds were shifted for this reorganization.

ìIf one or two offices are on the reservations but who have relatively little skills to offer where am I better off? It seems to me in doing this [reorganization] the schools would be better off.

ìThe tribes have good points and I totally understand their desire to have line officers on the reservations,î he said.

If the budget were adequate, line officers could be upgraded to higher levels of technical knowledge.

ìI donít have that luxury. We have to live within the budget,î Cason said.

ìWe have to provide better technical skills and get the biggest bang for our buck. I made a trade off with higher graded people in the area rather than fewer less skilled people on the reservations,î he said.

No consideration has been given to how long this new system will work but it will be measured on a regular or annual basis. Cason said the measurement will start with a baseline and see if the AYP can be increased over time.

ìWhat weíve been talking about is not a panacea by changing one factor. Adding technical capabilities in and of itself will not fix the problem. It is complicated. There are facilities, funding, teachers, transporation, testing culture, joblessness and a host of environmental factors that influence the success of a student.

ìTribal leaders want to have this work; tribal educators want this to work. We will look for resources to make the school environment better, but we recognize the limitations,î Cason said.

Many tribal schools across the nation have had success with AYP improvement, others have not. Cason said the department is looking at elements which work for some schools that could be implemented in others.

Cason said the discussion on line officer changes had taken place for more than two years and that input from tribal leaders and educators had influence on the final plan.

Plains tribal leaders disagree with that assessment, claiming that consultation took place only after the plan had been decided. The leaders want the plan halted and want pre-decision consultation to take place.

A legal complaint that asked for an injunction and/or temporary restraining order was filed in U.S. District Court in Sioux Falls, S.D. Cason is named in the lawsuit as a defendant and he did not directly address any portion of the complaint for this article.

WASHINGTON ñ The Office of Indian Education Programs will undergo an adjustment in staffing intended to improve the system and provide greater technical assistance to teachers and administrators.Education Line Offices will be changed and some tribal leaders, especially in the Plains, are against removing line officers from the affected schools.ìWhat it really is in large part is a relatively minor adjustment of staffing. One of the things found missing in the Indian Education Program is senior management to provide guidance,î said James Cason, associate deputy secretary of the Interior Department and architect of the reorganization plan.Cason said there are now 100 people working in the line office areas across the country and that after the realignment there will be the same number. He said the change will be to get higher grade people in the offices that have experience and knowledge enough to offer technical assistance. He said an education line office may have one officer and a secretary, as ìitís obvious the secretary does not offer technical assistance.îIn the Plains states, six line offices would be consolidated into three ñ one in North Dakota and the other two in South Dakota. The Great Plains Chairmenís Association and schools associated with the tribes have openly opposed the reorganization. The chairmen want the line officers to remain closer to the schools so that direct management services would not be reduced.ìThe principle issue is the concern for changing the status quo. When you step away from it and look at the level of commitment, we are actually adding staff in terms of full time. ìWe are placing higher graded people in the offices and adding money. Both North and South Dakota will get a higher commitment from us,î Cason said.The decision to reorganize the system came out of the Adequate Yearly Progress reports of the schools. Cason said in the Plains, only one-third of the students achieved the AYP standards. ìThe tribes want to preserve the 20 percent success rate. Eighty percent did not pass.ìIt seems to me that going through the exercise there is not a stellar record to preserve. How can we change the school system to get better results? We are looking at a basket of tools. One of the tools is upgrading the quality of technical assistance,î Cason said.An education line officer in the Plains typically is a ìGS 13;î the new line officers will be GS 15. Instead of a secretary, Cason added, the department is looking at GS 14 FTEs that will also provide technical assistance.The tribal leaders argue that it will cost an additional $11 million to carry out the plan and fear money will come from much needed education program dollars.Cason said additional funds were acquired for the purpose of the higher grade officers, no program funds were shifted for this reorganization.ìIf one or two offices are on the reservations but who have relatively little skills to offer where am I better off? It seems to me in doing this [reorganization] the schools would be better off.ìThe tribes have good points and I totally understand their desire to have line officers on the reservations,î he said.If the budget were adequate, line officers could be upgraded to higher levels of technical knowledge.ìI donít have that luxury. We have to live within the budget,î Cason said.ìWe have to provide better technical skills and get the biggest bang for our buck. I made a trade off with higher graded people in the area rather than fewer less skilled people on the reservations,î he said.No consideration has been given to how long this new system will work but it will be measured on a regular or annual basis. Cason said the measurement will start with a baseline and see if the AYP can be increased over time.ìWhat weíve been talking about is not a panacea by changing one factor. Adding technical capabilities in and of itself will not fix the problem. It is complicated. There are facilities, funding, teachers, transporation, testing culture, joblessness and a host of environmental factors that influence the success of a student.ìTribal leaders want to have this work; tribal educators want this to work. We will look for resources to make the school environment better, but we recognize the limitations,î Cason said.Many tribal schools across the nation have had success with AYP improvement, others have not. Cason said the department is looking at elements which work for some schools that could be implemented in others.Cason said the discussion on line officer changes had taken place for more than two years and that input from tribal leaders and educators had influence on the final plan.Plains tribal leaders disagree with that assessment, claiming that consultation took place only after the plan had been decided. The leaders want the plan halted and want pre-decision consultation to take place.A legal complaint that asked for an injunction and/or temporary restraining order was filed in U.S. District Court in Sioux Falls, S.D. Cason is named in the lawsuit as a defendant and he did not directly address any portion of the complaint for this article.