Port Angeles School District shares progress of Native American students

Collaboration with Lower Elwha focus of board meeting

PORT ANGELES — Native American students in Port Angeles School District are meeting or exceeding education goals in areas such as attendance and graduation rates, school authorities said at an annual meeting with the Lower Elwha Klallam Tribe.

Those areas that needed improvement or had slipped from last year were already being addressed through outreach to parents and continuously engaging with students, said Assistant Superintendent Michelle Olsen during a meeting on Thursday.

“The bottom line is, we’re seeing improvement,” Olsen said.

The meeting of the board was primarily devoted to presentations from the district’s teaching and learning team and Lower Elwha Klallam Tribe staff on their ongoing collaboration to improve Native American student attendance and test scores and to reporting on the progress of implementing the Since Time Immemorial curriculum and Klallam language classes. The meeting was hosted by the tribe at its Elwha Klallam Heritage Center.

Educators at Dry Creek Elementary, Stevens Middle School and Port Angeles High School reported improved graduation and attendance rates and fewer disciplinary interventions with Native American students from the past school year.

Jonathan Arakawa, a member of the Lower Elwha Klallam Tribe and a Klallam language and history teacher with the district, said one of his focuses had been creating Since Time Immemorial: Tribal Sovereignty in Washington State curricula.

The state Legislature in 2015 passed a law mandating all public schools in Washington state teach tribal sovereignty, history and culture. Since Time Immemorial (STI) was developed by tribal leaders, the Washington State School Directors Association and the Office of Superintendent of Public Instruction (OSPI) and was approved by all 29 federally recognized tribes in Washington state.

“History, English language and science, we can integrate tribal lessons into all of these subject areas,” Arakawa said.

Superintendent Marty Brewer said he was impressed with the progress of the collaboration, the innovative ideas educators were using to engage Native American students and the results of their efforts.

“The fact that everyone is leaning into the work, that’s what it takes and that’s what our kids need,” Brewer said. “The work started more than 20 years ago, and we still have a lot more work to do, but together we’re going to make it happen.”

Tribal Chairwoman Frances Charles said she was pleased as well with the strides the school district had made in its engagement with the tribe and investment in Native American student learning.

“This is very, very rare and is something the tribal council talked about,” Charles said.

Among actions taken by the board:

• Recognized November as Native American Heritage Month and adopted a resolution pledging to work with the Lower Elwha Tribal Council to develop curricula that include tribal history, culture and experiences;

• Approved a collective bargaining agreement with the International Brotherhood of Teamsters Local 589, which represents maintenance workers, mechanics and grounds personnel. The Teamsters were the last of the district’s unions to reach an agreement with the district; the contract runs through Aug. 31, 2023.


Reporter Paula Hunt can be reached at paula.hunt@soundpublishing.com.

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