November 3: Partnership between the Ho-Chunk Nation and SD of BRF

November 3, 2017

Hello, Black River Falls Community!  This is Dr. Shelly Severson with the School District of Black River Falls, and I'm here to share this week's installment of our Spotlight on Schools!  Today we are going to talk briefly about one of our strongest partners in the educational realm;  the Ho-Chunk Nation.  Over the years, the district and the Nation have continued to work hard at building a strong relationship, as we both have the same end goal; to help our kids be as wildly successful as possible!  

While the relationship between the district and the Nation has evolved over our history, I believe we are standing on very solid ground at this point.  We regularly collaborate with the Parent Advisory Committee from the Ho-Chunk Nation as they help us write our Title VI grant.  These discussions focus on ways to direct those grant funds so they directly benefit the students within the District that need it the most.  One significant action through that grant is the addition of Ho-Chunk Youth Services workers in each of our school buildings.  These are extra caring adults that are in the buildings each day to act as an additional resource and help to bridge the school-to-home gap.  One of our recent actions was to use a portion of those funds to hire a part-time person to assist with improving student attendance.  There is a great amount of research that links high student achievement and positive attendance.

Another area that we are so appreciative of our partnership is in the professional development of our staff.  Each fall, our new teachers are treated to an afternoon at the Tribal Office Building to hear from elders, to learn about the familial structure, to learn about the resources the tribe has available for its members, and to learn about their goals for their youth.  

The district has been a frontrunner in the state of Wisconsin in its collaboration with the Ho-Chunk Nation. Whether it be the historic Memorandum of Understanding that was signed several years ago or the continued work we do with all of our staff to ensure we are using culturally sensitive practices in our instruction, we look to research and good practices to ensure we are providing the best opportunities possible.  The district has a team of advocates that have been trained in Culturally Responsive Teaching practices, and they span all of our grade levels.  These advocates, in turn, provide training and context for the rest of the teachers on their team.  Adam Kazsubowski, a high school math teacher in the district, chairs this committee.

We are so proud of the diversity within our schools and look for ways to celebrate it throughout the year.  When the students are learning about the supreme court, in fifth grade, they also take a trip to the Tribal Court and get to visit with the Justices there.  The fact that each time someone enters one of our schools they are met with the US, the Wisconsin, and the Ho-Chunk flag, is meant to communicate how highly we value this relationship.

In November the Nation celebrates Native American Heritage Month.  This is a time to celebrate rich and diverse cultures, traditions, and histories and to acknowledge the important contributions of Native people.  Again, this partnership and cultural celebrations are one more thing that makes our community, and district, such a special place to be!

As always, thank you so much for your support of the School District of Black River Falls!  If you have any questions or concerns, please don’t hesitate to contact me!  Let’s show our Tiger Pride in all that we do!

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