SIX DIRECTIONS STORY
We started in fall 2014 as a group of educators concerned about forms of inequity in public school systems serving Native American youth. Public school systems in northwest New Mexico--whether GMCS or the BIE--have a long and troubled history of providing equitable and excellent education to Native youth and families.
For example, looking just at schools in Gallup proper during the 2013-14 school year, white students scored proficient or advanced on state tests at greater than double the rate of Native students. On math assessments, 59% of Anglo students scored proficient or advanced while 25% of Native students scored the same level. In reading the gap is even more dramatic: 64% to 25%. As other examples of inequity, even though upwards of 80% of students in GMCS identify as Native American, only 47% of students in Gifted and Talented classes are Native, while 85% of suspensions and 90% of expulsions fall on Native students, according to the Federal Office of Civil Rights Data. As a result of those inequities, Anglo students graduate from high school within four years at a rate 15 percentage points higher than their Native peers, and Gallup High School and Miyamura High School have some the highest rates of students needing remediation in college in the whole state. We do not believe that these gaps are the fault of students or families.
Our founding team developed the shared belief that charter school policy allowed us the opportunity to re-imagine school for Native youth. In order to hear from our community, we conducted approximately 70 one-on-one meetings with local parents, educators, policy-makers, and non-profit administrators; hosted public planning meetings; and presented and heard feedback at local chapter houses, the Indian Education Committee, and the McKinley County Community Health Alliance, among other organizations. We built early relationships with organizations like the National Indian Youth Leadership Project and the NACA-Inspired Schools Network, which has supported our work. Based on that outreach, we wrote a mission statement for a school committed to ensuring students are on a path to postsecondary opportunities of their choosing, holistically healthy, and actively engaged in their communities.
In January 2015, we submitted a notice of intent to both GMCS and the New Mexico Public Education Commission signaling our intent to apply for charter school approval. And we formalized our school design into a charter application, submitted to the Public Education Commission in July 2015. Our application articulated our belief that we could create an excellent school through the tenets of culturally responsive schooling and positive youth development.
In August, the Public Education Commission visited Gallup to host a Community Input Hearing. We turned out 30 people in attendance on a Monday morning at 8:30, and nine different audience members spoke in support of our school: Mac Hall and Susan Lee Carter from the National Indian Youth Leadership Project; Zowie Banteah and Esther Bemis from the Zuni Youth Enrichment Project; Brenda Chicharello, a parent and IEC member; Alan Brauer from the Native American Community Academy; Celeste Yazzie from NIYLP and Dream Diné Charter School; and two youth who recently graduated from Miyamura High School. Commissioner Toulouse told the audience that it was the first time in her three years on the Public Education Commission that she had seen a public hearing without any comments in opposition!
On September 24th, 2015 the state Public Education Commission approved our application by a vote of 8-1! We were one of only two charter schools approved in the state of New Mexico this year.
We will open with 6th and 7th grades and grow each year until we serve 6th through 12th grades.
We plan to launch student registration in January 2016.
And we will open our doors in August 2016, in a similar timeline with GMCS.
We're working diligently to finalize our first location.
A charter school is a free, open-enrollment public school that is overseen by a Governing Council of local community members and is given autonomy in curriculum and school design.
Our Charter Application
Read our Letter of Intent here.
Read our Executive Summary here.
Read our Charter Application here.
Community Input Hearing
Read the transcript from our Community Input Hearing here.