Native students look for better acceptance, inclusion

At its most recent meeting, Flandreau school board members heard a complaint that Native American students feel unwelcome, the resignation of long-time business manager Lisa Sanderson and a request to use the football field for a professional soccer game.

Native American students at times feel they do not belong in the Flandreau High School community and addressing some of those concerns will improve the school culture for all, a senior told school board members at the most recent meeting.

“Our goal is to create a school where students feel united, empowered and accepted,” said Jackie Allen, who spoke at the Feb. 12 meeting on behalf of the new student advisory council of the Johnson O’Malley/Title VI Native American education program.

Allen suggested several ways that students could be more a part of the school, including teacher training to improve inclusion and to make Native students feel more comfortable in classes. At times, students watch teachers show favoritism and nepotism based on student last names or whether they are an athlete, for example, she said.

Native American students want to gain more acceptance and provide more representation in the high school, Allen said. The school has lost Native American students, including some who have transferred to Flandreau Indian School because they feel they have not been accepted at the public school.

Elisabetta James, Native American education coordinator at the school, said students on the advisory board that was started this year, want to work together with the middle school and high school student councils, too, and are coming up with solutions to the concerns they identify. It was important for the students to take their message to board members as well, she said.

“We wanted to make sure there is an awareness of the experience Native students are having,” James said.

Native students also would like more help with college readiness, starting as early as their freshman year, Allen said.

The school has started addressing some of the concerns already, hoping to make experiences better for all students, said Nicole Herzog, high school principal.

In the public school, 46 percent of students now are a minority, including multiple cultures, she said. Teachers held a professional training session the same day as the board meeting to learn how to better teach students of many cultures, and staff training will continue, she said.

“I think we’re making progress,” Herzog said.

In addition, the high school plans to add career and college readiness programs next year, starting with freshman students, Herzog said in an interview after the meeting. Topics will include skills needed for careers, courses that will help individual interests, standardized testing and college readiness, for example. “Everything we do is for everybody,” she said.

In other business,

  • Volunteer soccer coach and program director Jason Unger asked the board to consider allowing the football field to be used for a soccer fundraiser for the Flandreau youth soccer club. The competition would be between the Sioux Falls adult men’s premier league team and the new semi-pro team, the Sioux Falls Thunder.

“We do have a great field space here,” he said. The game which would be played April 28, and goals made for the event would be donated to the school for local play and recreation.

The typical fee for using the field is $500, said Superintendent Rick Weber.

Unger asked that the fee be waived for the fundraiser.

Board President Darren Hamilton said the board will take the issue under advisement and decide by the March meeting.

  • The board approved entering into an agreement with the Colman-Egan School District to charge $250 a student, up to $1,000 a year, to allow students to wrestle with the Flandreau team. The financial agreement is the first step in the process. Both districts still would need to approve a co-op, which would then go before the South Dakota High School Activities Association for approval, Weber said.

Colman-Egan has one middle school wrestler committed to wrestling in the co-op, in which all students would be wrestling as Flandreau Fliers, and a few others are considering wrestling, he said. Flandreau would remain a B school, and the co-op would start as early as next year, if approved. Elkton also has inquired about wrestling with Flandreau, but Weber said the district probably isn’t interested in adding another school.

Wrestling Coach Travis Ahrens said he would welcome students from the neighboring school because it would be good for the team. “The more kids, the merrier.”

  • The board accepted the early retirement of business manager Sanderson, who will leave in the 2018-2019 school year. She has been with the district more than 28 years.
  • The board approved the hiring of Owen Parsley as the head high school track coach, Spencer Yackley as assistant golf coach and Beth Kayner as the all-school play director for the production that will be held this spring.
  • Ahrens will be the driver’s education instructor. The student fee for the course will be $240 with classes from May 29 to June 7.
  • The board also approved the resignations of Ashley Headrick as an elementary paraprofessional and junior high track coach and Jake Otkin as the junior high boys’ basketball coach.
  • Recent parent-teacher conference had 89 percent participation by families at the elementary level and 52 percent at the middle and high school levels.


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