Looking back at her own education, teacher Gabrielle Seeley wishes she would have had an American Indian literature class in high school.

"I think that there's great literature in American Indian writing and speeches," she said. "It's a body of literature that deserves serious study."

Seeley, a teacher at Lincoln Academy, led a group of teachers from the Rapid City Area Schools district this summer in the creation of a new senior class called American Indian Literature.

The outline for the new class will be presented to the Board of Education at its regular meeting tonight. They will vote to officially incorporate it into the curriculum at the Dec. 20 regular meeting.

The new course was the brainchild of Jr. Bettelyoun, director of Indian Education for the district.

"I just thought that the American Indian lit would be a good addition for all kids, not just Native kids," he said. "It's a good class to promote the whole issue of Indian culture of the region."

Assistant Superintendent Katie Bray said all seniors must complete a semester of literature and composition in order to graduate. Currently, the only two offered are "Myth and Symbols" and "World Literature."

The new American Indian literature class would include reading Indian literature, including speeches, as well as Indian history as it pertains to the area, Bray said. 

Seeley, who graduated from Spearfish High School before moving away for a number of years, said local residents may not realize what a "wonderful blend of culture there is here."

 "All South Dakota should learn about the major cultures that live together here," she said. 

At the meeting, the board will also preview the new long-term plan for Western Dakota Technical Institute, as well as an enrollment management plan and a faculty and student handbook. 

WDTI's enrollment management plan includes increasing full-time enrollment by 1 percent over the previous year, increasing Native American student enrollment by 15 percent by the fall of 2016, increasing full-time nontraditional student numbers, improving retention rates and improving financial "effectiveness."

The plan outlines a history at WDTI that includes a sudden enrollment increase starting in 2004 that "strained WDT's faculty and staff and lab and classroom resources." Then, in fall 2011, enrollment decreased by 10 percent. "That combination — enrollment growth and retraction, budget reductions, and lack of a clear enrollment management plan — have created a sense of scrambling across campus as faculty and staff find ad-hoc ways to serve students and the community," the plan said.

The management plan is "designed — in part — to help WDT organize its enrollment management efforts to remain a priority as issues arise."

WDTI faced the sudden and unexplained departure of former president Craig Bailey in January. President Mark Wilson was hired in May. 

In the past several months, the school has seen a large number of high-level turnover. WDTI Vice President Cathy Anderson resigned in November and the contract for Marge Beam, the dean of health and human services, was not renewed that same month. In October, dean of student services Janell Oberlander also resigned. 

At Thursday's meeting, the board will consider another resignation — a technical support position. 

In other business, the board will hear an audit presentation by Casey Peterson & Associates and an update on the district's professional learning community implementation. 


Contact Lynn Taylor Rick at 394-8414 or lynn.taylorrick@rapidcityjournal.com

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