Native Education Program Expands

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OSD welcomes new Native Education & Tribal Relations Program Manager
Sandra GordonThe Olympia School District is expanding its Native Education program this fall, thanks to the work of Sandra Gordon, the district’s new Native Education and Tribal Relations Program Manager. The Native Education Program relies upon Every Student Succeeds Act Title VI funding.

“When Tribal Relations and Native Education came under the umbrella of our Teaching & Learning Team in Summer, 2021, the Board and Superintendent prioritized hiring a leader for this work,” said OSD Chief Academic Officer Hannah Gbenro. “I'm grateful that the school certificated, classified and administrative staff partnered with me in the hiring process to identify a leader who met our call.”

“We were seeking someone who would partner with students, families, Tribes, and district leaders to create innovative, Whole Child supports that lead to high engagement, graduation, and overall success of students who are Native American, Alaskan Native, or Native Hawaiin,” Gbenro said. “The three hiring teams identified Sandra Gordon as our Program Manager and she's proven to be the right fit, readily building relationships and partnerships both internally and externally in the interest of student success.”

Gordon is a member of the Ojibwe Tribe, White Earth Nation, Minnesota. She is also a descendent of the Oglala Lakota. Her role is to serve as a liaison between the district and local tribes, advocate for Native students and help educate our community. She will also write grant proposals. Gordon is working to create a parent advisory group for the Native education program. And this fall, she hosted professional development opportunities for staff throughout the district.

“I’m equipping people to be able to work with Native families because there are some differences in cultural awareness, and there's a history of distrust of public education among Natives,” Gordon said. “Western education and Native ways of knowing and teaching our own are different.”

Common stereotypes of Native Americans aren’t helpful, Gordon said, noting that many people, when thinking of Natives, visualize fictional characters such as Disney’s Pocahontas. She is working to educate the community to change that perception. “It’s kind of like Native education for all,” she said.

There are currently over 100 students throughout our district who identify with a Washington State Tribe and 33 as Alaska Native. The State Tribes currently represented are: Chehalis, Colville, Cowlitz, Jamestown S’Klallam, Lower Elwha, Lummi, Makah, Nisqually, Port Gamble S’Klallam, Puyallup, Quinault, Shoalwater, Skokomish, Snoqualmie, Squaxin Island, Tulalip, Upper Skagit, and Yakama.

Gordon is currently working to form a parent committee that will determine the content, services, and resources needed to implement the program. Activities are intended to provide children and families with opportunities that not only encourage them to succeed academically but to enrich their cultural lives as well.

For more information about the Native Education Program, contact Sandra Gordon at
(360) 596-6144 or [email protected]