Nome School Board heads into new year with good news
After a short summer hiatus, the Nome Board of Education reconvened last week to prepare for the upcoming school year.
District Superintendent Shawn Arnold started off the meeting by thanking Norton Sound Economic Development Corporation for their generous gift toward technology for Nome’s students. “Partners in Education are community organizations or individuals from the region who go above and beyond, and we’ve been really fortunate for support from organizations to help us meet our needs to deliver services to students and NSEDC has been a valuable partner in a lot of different aspects over the years,” Arnold said.
In the recent past, through the Community Benefit Share Program, NSEDC has contributed money for computer upgrades and helped to fund the college and career guide position at the high school. “Now we’re honored with the Outside Entity Funding of $60,000 for computers,” Arnold continued. “When the community looks at the new hardware the students are using, a big part of that is made possible by NSEDC. To make things happen, we need collaboration, especially in tight times. These contributions go directly to the students.”
NSEDC’s Chief Operating Officer Tyler Rhodes was at the meeting to accept the award along with Education, Employment and Training Director Jesse Blandford and Nome board representative Pat Johanson. “We really value the partnership with the district,” Rhodes told the board.
Speaking as a parent as well as the Inupiaq Culture studies teacher at the elementary school, Annie Conger addressed the school board about teaching the district’s children to introduce themselves in Inupiaq. After her own traditional introduction to the board, Conger described for the board the benefits of having the students connect with their heritage through language. “As an educator for Nome Elementary School, one of the big goals I have is that our students introduce themselves in the Inupiaq language. When you look at our Inupiaq values, you see knowledge of language at the top,” Conger said. “It’s sad to say my generation are the last fluent speakers. I want to have our kids feel proud of who they are, where they come from, what language they speak, and who their ancestors are.”
Conger said that speakers of Yupik and Siberian Yupik would be invited to the school to work with students in those languages as well. “My request of the board would be to have our students introduce themselves so they know they come from special families in the Bering Strait region,” said Conger.
Board president Barb Amarok agreed.
“I think it’s a great idea,” said Amarok. “Traditional introductions in this region is one of the many practices of value from this area. To introduce yourself that way places people within their families so people know where they come from,” Amarok said. “I think it will help each child in our school system be more self-aware. Every child, every person, has a heritage and every person has a culture.”
Head Start teacher Maddie Alvanna-Stimpfle also spoke to the board in support of the Introductions Project. Alvanna-Stimple shared a video she made, in the last week of school, in which she taught her three- and four-year-old students to introduce themselves in Inupiaq, Siberian Yupik and Yupik, based on their background.
Superintendent Arnold also responded favorably to Conger’s proposal. “We do feel that it’s important for our students, and we would love to have community support for language. There’s nothing that says we can’t begin this introduction project now,” Arnold said. Board member Nancy Mendenhall echoed the sentiment, saying she’d like to see how the board can tie in in with their goals.
“Maybe it will be the tip of the iceberg,” Alvanna-Stimpfle said. “Maybe kids will want to learn more about their language; maybe they’ll start asking more questions [of family members], and maybe it will spark the language revitalization that people want.”
In other school board news:
• Superintendent Arnold said that 34 students worked with five teachers during the district’s “Kickstart” academy. The condensed summer-school session focused on those kids who needed the instruction intervention before school starts, Arnold said. Instead of holding the session at the end of the school year for a month, the kids met in August for two weeks of reading instruction.
• Over 20 teachers from around the state gathered in Nome to participate in the Arts Institute, where educators focused on integrating learning with fine arts, including visual and cultural arts.
• Nome Public Schools was awarded the three-year Pre-K grant, which will allow the district to hire and support teachers for the Head Start and Nome Preschool programs. Nome was the smallest district to receive the money. After watching the funding added and removed several times from the state budget, Nome is now seeking to fill two of the three positions. NPS is slotted to receive up to $273,000 for three years, after which time the district needs to produce a sustainability plan to show that they can continue to fund the positions.
• Technology Director Jacob Phillips announced the unveiling of a new school website in the very near future.
• The district’s new Director of Federal Programs, Jamie Burgess, introduced herself to the board and is busy working with the administration and migrant education programs.
The board met on Tuesday, August 16 for a special session and again for a work session on August 23.