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Serving Northern St. Louis County, Minnesota

Board works on response to AIPAC complaints

David Colburn
Posted 3/20/24

REGIONAL- For a fourth consecutive year, the ISD 2142 St. Louis County Schools American Indian Parent Advisory Council (AIPAC) had found the district to be noncompliant with state Indian Education …

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Board works on response to AIPAC complaints


REGIONAL- For a fourth consecutive year, the ISD 2142 St. Louis County Schools American Indian Parent Advisory Council (AIPAC) had found the district to be noncompliant with state Indian Education standards, and the school board held a working session Monday in Virginia to formulate their response to AIPAC’s complaints.
A committee comprised of members Chris Koivisto, Rob Marinaro, and Bob Larson met in late February to develop an initial draft response, and the full board reviewed their work on Monday, adding or revising information as they deemed necessary. Also involved in the discussion were Superintendent Reggie Engebritson, Director of Support Services Kim Jordan, and Finance Director Kim Johnson.
AIPAC presented the board with a list of 11 items they believe need to be addressed, as well as noting items from prior years that they said were unresolved. Some items dealt with unresponsive communication with the district, while others dealt with structural and procedural issues.
A new requirement for the district created in last year’s legislative session is to have a full-time Indian Education coordinator, a position that Engebritson noted is still in the process of being created. The district has had a full-time cultural liaison position, which will be phased out, and many of those duties will be incorporated into the coordinator job description currently being developed. The district has been working with Katie Pratt of the state Office of Conflict and Resolution to develop the position in line with state standards.
AIPAC requested to have representation on the district’s curriculum advisory committee, and the board will request a nominee from AIPAC to join the committee.
AIPAC had multiple concerns about budget processes, including:
The district should improve communication with AIPIC on “what is happening” with funding, and should have maximum involvement in the process of each funding source. The board’s response indicates that AIPAC leads the development of the district’s state Indian Education Plan, which includes collaborating on the budget. The district’s current practice is to hold monthly meetings to report progress on grants, and the meetings include the majority of the district’s federal and state grants. Engebritson noted that state regulations provide for AIPAC to be involved with state funding for Indian Education, and not necessarily the additional federal funds.
AIPAC said they should be involved in the expenditure of all relevant funding sources before being paid out. The board maintains that AIPAC is involved in determining expenditures through development of the state plan, and that they’re made aware of expenditures through the monthly budget updates.
AIPAC indicated that all funding sources are to be kept in separate accounts and not co-mingled. The council would like to see revenues and expenses in ledger form with detailed explanations, something they said was promised last spring. The board’s response indicates that the district’s normal practice is to have separate accounts for funding sources and that expenses are made according to the approved plans. Johnson noted that the district is still awaiting the state’s final approval of this year’s plan, and that when approval is received the district makes any necessary adjustment.
AIPAC reiterated the standard guidance that Indigenous Education funding is to be used to supplement other funding and not supplant any dollars from state or federal sources or co-curricular programs but did not note any instances where this was violated by the district. Board members noted that the district is in compliance and agreed with the statement.
AIPAC also noted stipulations it gave to the board to accept the 2022-23 budget that they assert remain unresolved. The council also indicated that it considers a “timely” response to requests for information to be one week from the date of the request and two weeks prior to meetings. The board agreed that the district will “do their best” to meet requests and communicate delays if the requested information is not accessible.
The board agreed with AIPAC’s statement that the council should receive the board’s recommendations at the same time that they are sent to the state Office of American Indian Education. AIPAC said that last year they had to request them and did not receive them until May.
The discussion on Monday also addressed the issue of staffing Indigenous support positions, with Jordan noting that a vacancy at Tower-Soudan Elementary exists because there are no applicants for the position. Qualified applicants for Indigenous education are hard to come by, she said. Board members did not agree with a request from AIPAC to have a member included on employee search committees, indicating challenges in providing the extensive training in the legal aspects of the hiring process. They did encourage AIPAC members to help recruit and refer viable candidates to the district.