Awarded in October 2019, the Tribal Education Department (TED) Grant takes information, data, and recommendations from the Sovereignty in Education (SIE) Grant (2014-2019)—which funded a feasibility study to assess the ability of Gila River Indian Community to operate their three tribally-controlled, Bureau of Indian Education (BIE)-funded schools—with a purpose to bring the Gila River Indian Community Vision for education to life. The results of that feasibility study revealed the need for more coordination and collaboration between the TED and the BIE school boards who operate the schools.
Through multiple education stakeholder meetings and work sessions over the past five years involving, Community members, school staff, Community Council Representatives, Education Standing Committee, and many other education stakeholders, the Tribal Education Department (TED) set three priorities in the TED Grant to:
- Finalize the work on the Education Code, soliciting feedback and input from Community stakeholders including Tribal Elders, Community Members from each district, incorporating input as appropriate, and then present to various standing committees of the Community Council., and finally the adoption of the code;
- Work to position the TED to take over the administrative support functions of the BIE for our three tribally-controlled schools, and;
- Outline our plan to coordinate services for all educational programs in the Community Pre K-12.
The TED Grant’s precursor, SIE, produced many positive returns used to justify the priorities above but failed in the key areas of transparency, open dialogue, and communication—specifically with partners who would reap the most benefits out of the work: school administration and staff, and Community Members. In an effort to heal this divide, the Tribal Education Department, its Director, Isaac Salcido, and administration staff have made it a priority to change the way it approaches grant activities by increasing the involvement and input from each stakeholder affected in key areas such as participation in meetings, the Education Code, and Strategic Planning.
As the grant period progress to its expected end date in September 2022, additional opportunities for collaboration and coordination for all parties will open up to set the foundation for a more cohesive education system built upon trust, communication, and open dialogue. Each partner after the grant is over will have influenced this journey to Gila River Indian Community’s Vision for education in the Community.