Lawrence school district’s Native American Student Services coordinator resigns

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Post updated at 9:18 a.m. Friday, Dec. 22:

The Lawrence school district’s coordinator in charge of programming and support for Native American students has resigned.

Kenneth “Kenny” St. Pierre, Native American Student Services (NASS) coordinator, announced his resignation Wednesday morning via a post on the NASS Facebook page. St. Pierre, Ihanktonwan/Yankton Sioux, shared the news with a “heavy heart.”

“This has been a difficult choice for me, as I have cherished every moment of my time here and developed relationships with the students and their families,” St. Pierre wrote in the post.

In an email, St. Pierre said his job as NASS coordinator and the way he views community were clashing to a point where he no longer felt comfortable in the position.

“It’s complicated, and all of our NASS salaries come out of Title VI, which leaves us with a very limited budget to program for our students,” St. Pierre said via email. “I didn’t like that feeling because it felt like I was taking from the students and families. I believe that we were making progress with building relationships in the community.”

St. Pierre said he’s leaving the district to step into the assistant superintendent and principal roles at Kickapoo Nation School in Powhattan, Kansas, an opportunity that came up for him. There he plans to collaborate with the Lawrence school district as well as other districts in Kansas.

NASS serves Native American students who are enrolled members of their tribal nations. Out of the 574 federally recognized tribal nations in the United States, approximately 120 are represented within the Lawrence school district. Currently, 360 students in the district are eligible to receive NASS-funded services, according to data from district spokesperson Julie Boyle.

St. Pierre had been working in his position for slightly more than a year, since September 2022. He replaced the previous coordinator, Kelly Walker, who had resigned in 2022. Before Walker, Jennifer Attocknie served in the position for some time.

After the Lawrence school board in March voted to close Broken Arrow Elementary School, NASS moved into the empty building and has been operating there this school year.

During St. Pierre’s time as coordinator, NASS has offered tutoring sessions, basket weaving, dancing, visits with Billy Mills, community service, college visit trips and more programming. In the fall semester this year, St. Pierre helped organize guest visits for students, including a talk with Olympic track and field athlete Janee’ Kassanavoid as well as a Billy Mills Middle School assembly with rapper and fancy dancer Supaman.

Last year was the first year each graduating senior in NASS was gifted with an eagle feather — representing the highest honor for an outstanding accomplishment — to wear during their commencement ceremonies.

St. Pierre also held monthly meetings with a parent committee and welcomed family involvement and feedback.

“To the students, you are the heart and soul of Lawrence Public School. Your curiosity, resilience, and eagerness to learn have made every day a joyous experience for me,” St. Pierre wrote in the post. “To the families, your unwavering support and trust in my abilities have meant the world to me.”

Moving forward, St. Pierre encouraged NASS students to stay connected and keep him updated with their successes. He and his family plan to remain in Lawrence.

“The future holds limitless possibilities for each of you, and I do not doubt you will positively impact the world,” he wrote in the post. “Thank you again for enriching my life and allowing me to be a part of yours. I will carry the memories and relationships we’ve formed wherever I go.”

St. Pierre said he’s unsure at this time who will serve as the interim NASS coordinator.

“We appreciate his service to the district, both as a teacher and coordinator of Native American Student Services,” Boyle said of St. Pierre via email. “The district will post the open position and welcomes all qualified applicants to apply.”

Boyle did not answer who might serve in the interim.

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Maya Hodison (she/her), equity reporter, can be reached at mhodison (at) lawrencekstimes (dot) com. Read more of her work for the Times here. Check out her staff bio here.

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