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Indian Parent Council set for another year

In her fifth year as the Indian education liaison for the South Kitsap School District (SKSD), Valerie Gilstrap is gearing up to facilitate another year of meetings that convene families from all over South Kitsap to ensure the academic achievement of American Indian students.

The South Kitsap Indian Parent Advisory Council is charged every year with the task of signing off on a national grant application that brings funding to the SKSD.

“We have a federal grant,” Gilstrap explained. “Our program is run through a grant we receive from the Office of Indian Education.”

According to Gilstrap, one of the grant guidelines is that a parent council approve the grant.

“The parent group is involved in how we work our program,” Gilstrap said. “(Members) also do activities that...support families. We’re trying to get more families involved. We’re really working toward having meetings that are going to appeal to families.”

“I’ve been in the district for about 11 years,” she said. “The paperwork (for the grant) goes back several decades.”

According to Gilstrap, the district receives the grant, which runs through treaty rights, because South Kitsap is home to enough American Indian children to warrant it.

“It used to be that they had to have a certain blood quantum,” Gilstrap said, noting that of the roughly 380 students in the district who identified as Native-American when enrolled, approximately 230 students had their parents or guardians trace their lineage back to an enrolled member of a tribe.

“We’re pretty diverse here in South Kitsap,” Gilstrap said. “We don’t have a reservation right down here.”

According to Gilstrap, there were 68 different tribes represented in the South Kitsap School District last academic year, tribes from all over the country.

With approximately 10 families currently involved in the council, Gilstrap hopes to encourage American-Indian families to come to meetings, not only for the business at hand, but for community activities like drumming and storytelling.

However, according to Gilstrap, the council’s goal is really geared toward academic achievement and keeping American-Indian children in school.

Gilstrap said she meets with kids monthly. In addition to her position, the grant helps to fund a tutoring program outside of the regular school day and pay for summer school classes for American Indian students that have fallen behind or what to know more about Indian culture.

“I think (the programs are working),” Gilstrap said. “From the WASL scores that come out, our kids are doing very well.”

The council has several upcoming events, including an activity night tonight at Orchard Heights Elementary and a regular meeting on Wednesday evening, Dec. 8 at East Port Orchard Elementary.

For more information call Gilstrap at (360) 443-3579.

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