Four members of the Wampanoag Tribal Education Department spoke by Zoom to the Falmouth School Committee on Monday, November 16, to advocate for collaboration and partnership with the Falmouth school district and offer supplemental services to native youth.
The Tribal Education Department has a formal partnership with the Department of Secondary and Elementary Education and the Mashpee Public School District, where most of its services are centered.
These partnerships focus on “equity, access and advocacy on behalf of native youth in grades pre-K through 12,” Tribal Education Director Roxanne Mills Brown told the committee. “We focus on building the capacity of the Tribal Education Department, native teacher recruitment and the provision of formal, supplemental, academic instruction through data sharing for all native students.”
These efforts start with those served by Title I, a state program designed to improve the academic performance of disadvantaged students and those with individualized education programs and 504 plans, Ms. Brown said.
A 504 plan falls under a state program that protects the rights of people with disabilities in programs and activities that receive federal financial assistance.
The tribe offers support for dual enrollment opportunities and gifted/talented support for “higher-level thinking projects and activities for native students” whose skills often go unnoticed, she said.
The Tribal Education Department provides professional development and technical assistance for teacher improvement to “enhance the understanding of non-native teachers, in whose classrooms our children sit, for how native students learn and the real impact of colonization on us today as native people,” and other opportunities to provide insight into a people, Ms. Brown told the committee.
The department provides financial support for two Wampanoag language instructors at the Mashpee Middle-High School and ongoing opportunities for cultural awareness and knowledge in support of “self-esteem, self-awareness, confidence and competence, with groundwork laid by our ancestors and elders,” she said.
“We look forward, over the next weeks, months and years to working closely with the Falmouth Public Schools, whose approximately 114 enrolled native youth have a reasonable expectation of accessing the best academic, social and cultural education experience available,” Ms. Brown said.
John Hanlon, who provides college and career readiness services with the Building Pathways for Tribal Youth program, told the school committee that one of the program’s goals is to be able to reach the native students who go to Falmouth schools.
“We offer GED prep for students who drop out of school, and we take students to visit colleges, including native colleges in the West, which are cheaper,” he said. “This week we will be on WCAI’s ‘The Point,’ talking about a book club for native youth.”
This year, the department provided driver’s education to 14 students. AAA instructors went to the students’ homes in Mashpee, and the classes were taken online, Mr. Hanlon said.
“We would like to get the Falmouth students involved and support the college and career readiness readiness they get in high school,” Mr. Hanlon said.
Cameron Greendeer, program manager for the Building Pathways for Tribal Youth program, told the school committee that the program would like to get more native students involved in internship programs and bring that into the STEP (State Tribal Education Partnerships) grants he manages.
“All tribal students have opportunities,” he said. “We offer time and financial management workshops, mentoring and advising for high school and college students, and cultural nights for Wampanoag students, which we will invite the native students in Falmouth to attend when the COVID-19 pandemic is over.”
Contracted American Indian Resource Specialist Jerry Lassos spoke to the school committee about “The Massachusetts Chronicles,” which has been distributed to every school district in the state.
“The Massachusetts Chronicles” represents a new way of looking at more than 400 years of state history. At the heart of the project is a book that has been written in partnership with Plymouth 400, the Plymouth Public Schools, Bridgewater State University and the Wampanoag and other tribes.
“The Massachusetts Chronicles” book features more than 60 stories, written in the style of a newspaper, that begin before the Pilgrims settled in the commonwealth.
This resource, Mr. Lassos said, could allow for native perspectives to be embedded into the school curriculum. He did an analysis of the “Chronicles” and found more than 30 articles related to native people and the Wampanoag tribe in particular, he said.
He then created a template that would incorporate native students’ strengths as visual-spatial learners. A timeline with scan codes allows students to share videos on “The Massachusetts Chronicles’” YouTube channel.
Mr. Lassos told the school committee he is offering to co-plan and co-teach and videotape these lessons, to be used for professional development at schools throughout the district.
“This provides only a glimpse of the opportunities we could provide in Falmouth,” Ms. Brown said. “The real work begins with getting to know Falmouth educators and the student needs in areas for which we could begin to partner.”