Red Wing School Board member Nicky Buck made an emotional plea for other board members to better understand the Prairie Island Indian Community and the American Indian Parent Advisory Committee.
“You guys need to start building relationships with the Native American parent committee,” she said. “We need to start walking by our words.”
She urged board members to become engaged with the Native American community.
“I invite you guys to show up,” Buck said, adding that board members need to be there not just for the next meeting but for the remainder of their terms.
Buck’s plea for more involvement came during the section of the meeting for board member reports.
Buck and board members Arlen Diercks and Holly Tauer met recently with the parent advisory committee, which last March issued a resolution of non-concurrence that the Red Wing schools are not meeting the needs of Native American students.
School district administrators 90 days later reported a series of responses to the recommendations of the parent advisory committee. According to the city of Red Wing’s website, there are about 200 Native American students among the district’s more than 2,500 students.
Buck, a member of the Prairie Island community, said she gets stretched thin as the liaison between government agencies such as the school district and the tribal community.
“Everybody expects me to just go back and forth, and I can’t do that because I am being incredibly stretched,” she said.
There are many programs that are just being developed that should have already been in place, according to Buck..
“All of these wonderful things – things that we were supposed to be providing to the Native American students – were not in place,” she said. “They are still not. They are starting to get in place.”
Buck said that Phil White, the district’s liaison for Native American program, is funded out of Title VI federal funds that should be supplementing district programs.
“(That position) shouldn’t be spent out of Native American funds,” she said. “That is money being taken away from Native American children to go to these programs that are supposed to be … all these words …”
Her voice breaking with emotion, Buck continued: “Can you feel my frustration here because words and actions aren’t being met up and they haven’t been.”
Buck called on the district to create a director of Native American education.
“We need a director of Indian ed, Phil needs help,” she said.
“These are positions we need to be focusing on,” Buck said. “If we are going to be … they come to us, and we are not listening. I listen. I listen because no one listens to me.”
Buck, who attended the meeting remotely, wiped away tears and then turned off her video for a few minutes.
Board member Holly Tauer noted that the grant money from the federal government should be in addition to what the district provides as a baseline for Native American education.
“The money has to be above and beyond what you should be providing as a district,” Tauer said. “It’s not to fill holes. It’s not to do the bare minimum.”
She added this “is the right time to make the right move.”
“So I support that, Nicky,” Tauer said. “I understand exactly what you are saying. We should be looking at paying for a position for someone to be the Native American director or the Indian ed director, however we want to frame it.”
School Board Chair Anna Ostendorf said the board will discuss the ongoing issues at a workshop scheduled for Nov. 21.