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Salt River Schools Responds to Community Parents

SRS Superintendent and Director of Education Dr. Louis Laffitte answers questions during the Lehi Community Forum on March 30.

In March, Salt River Schools held two Community Forums, one at the Salt River Community Building and the other at the Lehi Community Building. Both forums were well received by Salt River parents/guardians and SRS staff and faculty. Parents engaged in conversation with SRS Superintendent and Director of Education Louis Laffitte and other school officials. Here are some of the highlights.

Q: My child, who has [special needs], goes to Mesa Public Schools but wants to attend SRS. What are you doing about this? How will you help these students come back to SRS?

A: “Over the past two years, Salt River Schools has changed its approach to students with disabilities. We have moved from not offering a variety of services for our students to offering a continuum of services to meet the needs of all students with disabilities. This includes, but is not limited to, inclusion, pull-out or resource classes, and a self-contained classroom for students with mild to moderate disabilities. We have also added a behavioral interventionist position and now offer support at both the elementary and high school. Families with questions about school supports for their children are encouraged to call my office anytime at (480) 362-2573.”
—Vicky Corlett, Exceptional Education Director

Q: My child goes to the Early Childhood Education Center and eats lunch at her desk instead of in the cafeteria. Why don’t they eat with the rest of the students?

A: “We partake in ‘family-style’ meals with students at the Early Childhood Education Center. This promotes social-emotional competencies, self-help skills and language development. Eating in their classrooms also allows students quick access to child-size furniture and amenities, including sinks and bathrooms, when needed, as well as reducing the number of transitions needed throughout the learning day. Classrooms with students transitioning to kindergarten use the cafeteria beginning in January to help prepare them for an elementary school day.”
—Tami Brungard, Early Childhood Education Center Leader

Q: The student-to-teacher ratio doesn’t match up. Why don’t you have extra teacher’s aides in the classrooms to help the students who need it?

A: “Salt River Schools is proud of our low teacher-to-student ratios. We have also thoughtfully managed our instructional aides with regard to student assignments. In this way, students’ needs always come first. If students’ needs are met, then they will succeed over time. At our Community Forums, Dr. Laffitte communicated that most Arizona schools have between 25 and 35 students per teacher. The ratio at Salt River Schools is about 15 to 20 students per teacher, depending on grade level. In fact, the ratios within our division are much lower than ratios reported by the Bureau of Indian Education, which ranges from about 20 to 25 students per teacher, also depending on the grade level.”
—Dawn Yazzie Howard, Chief of Staff

Q: You’re going out of state to look for teachers. Is there something wrong with the teachers here?

A: “When it comes to our employees, our No. 1 priority is to hire from within the Community and promote from within. What most people don’t realize is that the state of Arizona suffers from a teacher shortage (see sidebar). Our responsibility is to hire and retain highly qualified and highly skilled educators, because our focus is serving students and their academic needs. If you’re from the SRPMIC and are interested in a career in education, please contact our Higher Education Department to establish a graduation plan.”
—Dawn Yazzie Howard, Chief of Staff

Q: SRES teachers no longer have printers at their desks. Why?

A: “We are a blessed division in that our Community supports us in many ways. Limiting printer usage to one, two or three areas per site helps us cut down on waste, encourages sustainable classroom practices and using tribal resources wisely, and is a major cost-saving tool. The funds saved—an estimated $100,000 this school year—allowed us to support other Community needs, such as Labor of Love. We know it was a change, but we’re proud of the resiliency, creativity and sustainability practices our teachers and staff have demonstrated this year.”
—Dr. Louis Laffitte, Jr., Superintendent

Q: Why was the SRHS principal fired?

A: “We are legally unable to discuss any personnel issues. As with any change we make across the division, our choices always have the best interests of students, families, the Community and our staff at heart. We’re currently in the process of filling the open SRHS principal position and look forward to student, family, Community and staff involvement during the candidate selection process at the candidate meet-and-greet planned for early May.”
—Dr. Louis Laffitte, Jr., Superintendent