Acting Superintendent Hosts Forum on Salt River Schools Programs

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Families and educators came together for the Salt River Schools (SRS) Superintendent Forum to hear about the various programs that serve students of the Salt River Pima-Maricopa Indian Community. The event was hosted by SRS at the Accelerated Learning Academy lecture hall and streamed live on Facebook on September 13. 

“We are doing the best for our kids, and doing that means making sure that we are connecting with families in the Community for all of the amazing services that we have,” said Dr. Melody Herne, acting superintendent for SRS. 

The evening was focused on the various programs offered through SRS and how they come together to serve students of the Community. Representatives from each program provided an update on their activity and how they are working to improve the learning experience of SRPMIC students. Dr. Herne said that in order to bolster SRS’s support for students, it needs to collect data on their academic performance and create benchmarks for them to reach going into 2023. 

Programs covered included the Salt River Early Education program and Salt River Elementary School, which focused on how it is preparing young students for success by implementing student reviews and more frequent meetings with students. 

Starting from the beginning of their education, the SRS goal “is to prepare children for success as lifelong learners, strengthen the families, and set the foundation for the family to be involved with their children throughout their education,” said Tami Brungard, SRS Early Childhood Education assistant program manager. 

“Time on Task” is a Salt River Accelerated Learning Academy initiative to help high school students spend more time focusing on their academics and ensure they have the appropriate resources needed to complete their assignments. Other updates include more classrooms, a multipurpose space for students to learn and additional space for staff. 

This includes the incorporation of culture and support for students’ well-being, according to Barbara Wilkinson, interim principal at the ALA. “Students are also provided weekly social and emotional lessons so our students, particularly our adult students, learn how to go through challenges in their lives,” said Wilkinson. 

The goal is to also provide ALA students with extra time and resources to prepare for the ACT test, including setting goals for attendance and study time. This includes drawing up an attendance plan and allowing students to come in on Saturdays to get caught up on their classwork. 

For the young adults working toward earning their GED, Salt River Schools realizes it is important that they incorporate the culture into the learning environment and understand that the population they serve comes from a variety of backgrounds and conditions. According to Adult Basic Education Specialist Erica Litz, who serves GED students, “Currently for September we started the month with 92 students. That’s gone up to 100. We have a new graduate as of yesterday, so we have three graduates.”

Litz said that GED students can access a number of resources. “Individual instructional services are [available] in person, by appointment, [and through] hybrid, remote and college opportunities.” She said once they graduate, the GED students are referred to the Higher Education Program to expand their horizons through college or a trade school. 

Salt River Higher Education Program Manager Rebeca Ronstadt-Contreras spoke about the resources offered to Community students as they plan their college journey. “The Higher Ed program offers a number of supports, primarily financial aid, for any enrolled Community member interested in earning a postsecondary [degree],” said Contreras. 

To help SRPMIC students prepare for college and apply for financial aid, Contreras said, “Higher Ed is comprised of seven members, four of whom are education program advisors, so they advise students on that.”

SRS also plans to look at improving core subject areas, student attendance, student and staff self-care, and safety for everyone. The forum concluded on the topic of school safety, which was covered by Esteban Lopez, safety and security officer. Lopez said he and staff regularly review emergency procedures, such as fire drills and lockdown procedures. 

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