U.S. Secretary of the Interior Sally Jewell said her December 11 visit to Laguna Pueblo Elementary School in New Mexico was her “first opportunity to see an Indian school directly,” reported the Albuquerque Journal.
She and a number of others, including Assistant Secretary for Indian Affairs Kevin Washburn, were meeting to help inform the work of the American Indian Education Study Group. As part of the visit, they toured the school and had a roundtable with principals from other local tribally controlled schools.
Jewell saw the deteriorating school and the difficulty the school has in recruiting and retaining teachers.
“We do have facility issues. Our school is more than 50 years old. We highlighted what’s going on in our classrooms in terms of facility concerns; and our security concerns, because we have an open campus,” Laguna Elementary School Principal Kay Morris explained, reported the Cibola Beacon. “Academics—we need to make sure a lot of our faculty is highly qualified. It’s extremely difficult to get qualified staff among other issues. We did highlight the fact that teachers are doing a phenomenal job and our students are making increased academic gains.”
The tour group visited classrooms as well, which was Jewell’s favorite part.
“That was my biggest delight—seeing kids learning in the classroom in an enthusiastic way,” Jewell told the Albuquerque Journal. “You may have challenges with the heating and cooling system and cracks in the wall, but you wouldn’t tell that from the kids in the classroom, who are doing so well.”