Six Directions was approved today by a 8-1 vote by the Public Education Commission! Read more from our press release:
Six Directions was one of only two schools approved by the PEC this year, out of eight initial applicants.
“We really couldn’t have imagined a better outcome,” lead organizer Lane Towery said. “The eight to one vote feels like a real validation of the hard work that our founders and Governing Council have put into trying to answer the question: what does an equitable and culturally relevant school option look like in the border town context of Gallup?”
The Six Directions application seemed like it was on the verge of passing when Commissioners Vince Bergman, Carmie Toulouse, Jim Conyers, and Jeff Carr voiced their early support.
“They scored very high compared to other applications," Commissioner Jim Conyers of Bloomfield, who also represents Gallup, said. "I feel like I can support this application."
Of the reasons given for voting to approve the application, commissioners mentioned the relationship with the National Indian Youth Leadership Project, the support of the NACA-Inspired Schools Network, the demonstration of community support at the Community Hearing, and the need for innovation in providing excellent educational options for Native youth.
“In the past, we’ve gone too far in trying to strip culture away from Native children,” Commissioner Carr of Taos said. “I wish you great success.”
Six Directions was represented at the PEC Meeting by founding Governing Council members Ben Soce and Philmer Bluehouse, as well as lead organizer Lane Towery.
Speaking before the Commissioners, Mr. Soce spoke about attending Gallup Middle School after having been in elementary school with a predominantly Diné population. He described a challenging transition and experiencing a lack of support, eventually doing poorly intentionally in order to be moved out of advanced courses where he felt out of place without other Native students or staff.
“I wanted to be in a place where I belonged and be properly supported and challenged but instead felt overlooked,” Mr. Soce, who works for the National Indian Youth Leadership Project as an outdoor educator, said. “I often wonder what impact it would have made for me if I were properly supported, and Six Directions will address circumstances like that.”
Anpao Duta Flying Earth, Head of School at the Native American Community Academy (NACA), spoke on behalf of the NACA-Inspired Schools Network, describing the start-up funding and logistical support the founding team of Six Directions will receive.
Audience members in attendance from NISN and the National Indian Youth Leadership Project showed their support for Six Directions.
“That was a significant moment when they asked to know who was there to support our school and more than half the room stood up,” Mr. Soce said.
At Six Directions’ Community Input Hearing August 20th in Gallup the Public Education Commission heard from 10 different audience members in support, and none in opposition—a fact mentioned multiple times by Commissioners to justify their “yes” votes.
“I think this shows that when parents and community members can make their voice heard, they can really influence decision-making, even at the state level,” Mr. Towery said.
Six Directions will now work towards an August 2016 opening with sixth and seventh grades, growing one grade level each year until they reach their full 6-12 capacity.
The Six Directions Governing Council will build out five committees this year aimed at accomplishing relevant tasks for opening an excellent school: Curriculum Committee, Wellness Committee, Family Engagement Committee, Staff Hiring Committee, and Facilities and Operations Committee. Anyone who is interested in participating in any committee is encouraged to contact Lane Towery at firstname.lastname@example.org.