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Changes under way for Cloquet Indian Ed program

With the new school year will come changes to the Indian Education program in the Cloquet School District.

Starting with the last few months of the 2009-2010 school year, a committee of school administrators and representatives from the Local Indian Education Committee met to go over areas of the Indian Ed Program to produce new goals for the upcoming school year.

Ultimately, the group decided the program should move in a different direction, so a number of changes are planned for the coming school year.

A change of leadership is part of that new path, said Superintendent Ken Scarbrough. Melanie Strom will no longer be the director. While the district did offer Strom a full-time teaching position, Scarbrough said Strom did not accept the offer and is pursuing something different. Former director Vern Zacher will fill in as interim director until a new director is hired. Committee members hope to fill the position before the beginning of the school year or soon thereafter.

"Melanie has been with the program a number of years and has done a really good job," Scarbrough said Wednesday. "She has great skills and abilities as a teacher."

As part of the program's revamping, a number of new positions will be added in the high school, middle school and in the Cloquet Area Alternative Education Program to work toward the goal of helping students achieve basic skills.

Next year, two new positions will be added at Cloquet High School: one home school liaison and one tutorial position.

Both elementary schools will also have a liaison and tutor. The two full-time Indian Ed. teaching positions will continue at the elementary schools.

"The ultimate goal is to provide academic help for students," Scarbrough said.

In addition, a four-hour-per-day tutor will work at the Alternative Learning Center with the CAAEP.

The increase in tutors and academic support is in part an effort to boost state test scores of Native American students, who have been one of the trailing sub-groups of Cloquet School District students.

"Our sub-groups have been doing well but there are areas to improve," said Scarbrough. "Overall they are really working hard."

Not only did the committee want students to get academic support, but feel it is important to keep supporting academic enrichment activities.

Plans are in the works to create after-school programs that promote awareness of Native American culture.

Proposed ideas are to incorporate more outdoor learning. Additionally, former teacher Harvey Thompson will spend one night a week at each elementary school teaching the Ojibwe language.

With all the changes, Scarbrough hopes for a positive reaction in students.

"We want all students to feel like they're part of a larger community," said Scarbrough.

The Cloquet School Board held its regular meeting Wednesday night because of the primary election. Look for a story on that meeting in next week's Pine Journal.