Kansas creates American Indian education advisory council

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TOPEKA — The Kansas State Board of Education has established a temporary advisory council to improve and reform American Indian learning systems in the state.

Cheryl Harrison-Lee, chairwoman of the Kansas Board of Regents, said the creation of the council will help state education officials as they try to close enrollment gaps for underserved Kansans. The KBOE created the council to focus on K-12 American Indian education but believes it will also help guide higher education.

“Anytime we have an opportunity to create council mechanisms to really get broader voices on higher education issues, I think it’s an asset,” Harrison-Lee said.

The board established the Kansas Advisory Council for Indigenous Education Working Group during its May meeting.

Citing recent discussions with American Indian education stakeholders, the council “is a symbol of good faith dialogue between multiple institutions working towards the long-term goal of establishing a more permanent and formal advisory council for Indian education as we collaboratively work toward improving our learning systems to better serve American Indian students, families, communities and nations in Kansas,” according to the board.

In the short term, the council will work toward building relationships between Kansas education systems and American Indian stakeholders, as well as identifying funding to establish a full-time coordinator position, creating short-term recommendations for American Indian education reform and researching similar councils in other states.

Long term, the council will work toward creating and building a permanent advisory council.

Members of the council are still being appointed, but it will be made up of 12 voting members, one chair and two honorary members.

The Kansas Board of Regents voted in two of the 12 voting members during its June meeting.

One is Melissa Peterson, director of tribal relations at the University of Kansas. Peterson has held that position since 2021 and has been at KU since 2015. Peterson previously served as an associate director for KU TRIO Supportive Educational Services and STEM and assisted the Haskell University and KU Exchange Program in the KU Office of Diversity and Equity.

Peterson is a member of the Navajo Nation and is one of the T ł ‘ízí lání clan (Many Goats) born for the Todích’íí’nii clan (Bitter Water), according to her biography on KU’s website.

“I think her leadership role and her background will bring a voice that is a much-needed voice on the council,” Harrison-Lee said.

Daniel Archer is the second member the regents appointed. He has served as the KBOR vice president of academic affairs since 2019. Before coming to Kansas, Archer served as the assistant vice chancellor for academic affairs at the Oklahoma State University Regents for Higher Education, the registrar at Southwestern Oklahoma State University and as an academic and international adviser at Oklahoma State University-Oklahoma City.

Archer now lives in Lenexa with his wife, Lindsey — an attorney and member of the Chickasaw Nation — and their two children.

“He brings his knowledge and experience with academic affairs research and is very focused on trying to improve academic outcomes for those segments of our population of students that we have not traditionally served,” Harrison-Lee said.

After all members have been appointed, the council will meet at least once per month and establish an online presence. While it is not yet determined whether that online presence will be through KBOR, KSDE or KBOE, they plan to share recommendations, relevant business, news, resources and photos.

“The goals of the council fit perfectly with several of the regents’ strategic priorities,” Harrison-Lee said. “We’re also focused on working with (Kansas State Department of Education) to create a more seamless transition from high school to college for all students. I think we’ll learn from the work of the council that we can apply to higher education to make progress in both areas.”

Kansas Reflector is part of States Newsroom, a network of news bureaus supported by grants and a coalition of donors as a 501c(3) public charity. Kansas Reflector maintains editorial independence. Contact Editor Sherman Smith for questions: info@kansasreflector.com. Follow Kansas Reflector on Facebook and Twitter.

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