K-T Parents and Teachers Discuss Struggles Within Local Schools

Mar 28, 2019

Close to 50 people gathered in Hoopa to talk about thier experiences with the KTJUSD school system.
Credit Natalya Estrada

The Klamath-Trinity Joint Unified School District continues to face more criticism of the Local Control Accountability Plan or LCAP. The board met in mid-February to approve the LCAP, but community members voiced their opinions against passing the LCAP—which primarily deals with the district’s budget and funds earmarked for at-risk students.

Erika Tracy, the executive director of the Hoopa Tribal Education Association organized a meeting on Wednesday, with the ACLU and the Yurok Tribe, for parents, teachers and tribal members to discuss what experiences they’ve had within the district.

“This just shows how important our children’s education is,” Tracy said, while introducing herself to more than 50 community members, who attendees who filled the room. “Especially how much investment and, I think, desire to have input, meaningful input in our community.”

Throughout the two hour meeting, teachers said they’re struggling to provide basic curriculums and educational materials that are essential to student success and retention. Parents complained that the district does not engage with them about school policies and goals. And now with the ACLU looking into transparency and accountability problems within the schools, many were confused about when these issues will be fixed.

“We care. We care about our children and we care about other people's’ children. Because they are our future, they’re going to be our leaders,” Priscella Kinney, a parent with two children at Weitchpec Elementary said and then explained that problems in the district are further exacerbated by other tribal issues.

Despite the obstacles, she said parents are still involved and want to more chances to engage with the district.  

Erica Tracy with the Hoopa Tribal Education Association asks atendees to speak up about what issues students face on a day to day basis within the KTJUSD schools.
Credit Natalya Estrada

“There’s this stereotype that because we struggle with poverty, because we’re struggling with finding jobs, and housing and food and water, that we can’t engage. But yet, even though we struggle with these things, we still show up,” Kinney said.

Similar problems exist in towns across Highway 96. Roughly 14 miles northeast is the town of Orleans. Residents like Laura Hurwitz, also a parent with kids in the K-T district, says she’s shocked at the lack of resources, not only for students but for educators as well. She says at one point, counselors at Orleans Elementary—a Kindergarten through 8th grade school—didn’t even have offices to conduct meetings with students.

“Some of them were being implemented in the storage closet that’s attached to the multi-purpose room. And I don’t know if its a regular long term practice, but I was told that that did happen.”

These patterns don’t surprise teachers like Robert Anderson, who’s taught at Hoopa Valley High School for 10 years. He says there’s not only a lack of resources and transparency, but also a lack of consistency within the administration.

A mother and child place their sticky note complaints on a wall for the ACLU representatives to collect at the end of the meeting on Wednesday.
Credit Natalya Estrada

“One of the worst things you can do for an ‘at-risk’ child is instability and yet this has been the nature of this district under the leadership the last five years. And the lack of transparency just heightens that sense of not knowing what's going on.”

Anderson also thinks systemic problems within tribal lands and historical trauma contribute to these struggles within the school district.

“This is a human situation that any community of poverty would understand,” he said.  

Attendees were encouraged by ACLU representatives to write down the complaints and concerns on sticky notes and post them on a wall for them to record and determine what problems remain and what solutions can be made.