Ute Mountain Utes plan district education mentors

Advocacy program revamped after attrition

The Ute Mountain Ute Education Division plans to hire four new mentors, known as check and connect monitors, to work in the Montezuma-Cortez RE-1 School District this semester.

The tribe has traditionally funded student advocates at each of the schools. But after the last two advocates left for different positions around Christmas,Tanya Amrine, the education division director for the tribe, decided it was the perfect time to revamp the program.

“It needed a stronger oversight component and a stronger training piece,” she said.

Researchers at the University of Minnesota developed the Check and Connect program to provide on-going intervention for disengaged students and it has been in use in classrooms since 1990.

The tribe will be funding one position at Montezuma-Cortez High School, one at Cortez Middle School, one for Kemper and Menaugh Elementary schools and one for Mesa Elementary and the new Towaoc kindergarten class, which started in the fall. The district currently employs three monitors at the high school and two at the middle school. When the tribe finishes hiring, there will be two monitors at the high school dedicated to mentoring Native American students, said Amy Smith the Check and Connect coordinator for the high school.

The job postings should go up in February to find monitors, who will meet with students that are struggling with their attendance or their grades. The monitors will work to connect students to tutoring, provide better communication between the school and parents and work as a liaison to other resources for students.

This program has been in place within the school district since the 2009-2010 school year and the tribe-funded mentors will be able to attend the same trainings at the district monitors, Amrine said.

Amrine, hopes that the one-on-one mentorship through regularly, weekly meetings in the high school will help Ute Mountain Ute students manage assignments better and feel supported.

“Once they are more successful and feeling the successes, that will overall, affect the graduation rate,” she said.

In the 2013 graduating class, 12 of the 32 Native American students at the high school graduated on time. Amrine said more students graduated than anticipated after many people in the education department worked with teachers to identify students that might miss graduation by a credit or two.

“It was really kind of a collaborative effort on both ends,” she said.

On the elementary school level, the monitors would help provide communication between schools and parents on mainly attendance issues.

“That seems to be where our elementary students are struggling,” Amrine said.

The tribe has a very strict school attendance policy for all grades. Once an attendance issue is referred to the Ute Mountain Ute Education Division the staff works with parents with any barriers. The next step after that is truancy court, where there are open cases concerning students at every grade level, Amrine said.

The Education Division had been working on changes to the advocacy program since the fall semester.

“We have everything in place to best support our employees,” Amrine said.