Nome School Board Requests $3-Million From City, Focuses on Iñupiaq Immersion

Pencil sharpener, pencil, and pencil shavings, on top of open, blank notebook

More local and traditional knowledge is set to be a key feature in future school years at Nome Public Schools. That was the Nome School Board’s focus last Tuesday night, when the Board also approved a third draft of the fiscal year 2021 budget and laid out the fourth quarter of this school year during their regular meeting.

The Board’s first online meeting via Zoom started with a discussion of NPS’s Strategic Equity Framework which is broken down into three main goals. One of those is integrating Inupiaq language and culture into curriculum in Nome Public Schools’ classrooms.

“[To] Implement programs and practices that support indigenous language revitalization.”

– NPS Superintendent Jamie Burgess

Nome Public Schools’ Superintendent Jamie Burgess says the plan is to add dual enrollment Inupiaq language classes, integrate local indigenous language through signs and announcements, and grow the Inupiaq immersion program in local schools starting next year.

The other two main goals are to prepare NPS’s students for a wide range of post-secondary options and for students and families to be positively connected to their school, community, and culture.

Burgess notes that there is overlap between these goals and says the timeline for these improvements is expected to be over the next three to five years. As a way to help further these goals, Burgess is looking to partner with local native corporations.

“We’ll be tracking how many events we have and what attendance looks like at each of those.”

– Jamie Burgess

Further details about potential events between NPS and various native corporations was not mentioned at the Board meeting.

Also, during Tuesday’s regular meeting, Burgess and the School Board looked over the budget in reference to the presentation she made at the latest Nome City Council meeting (on April 13th).

“So for FY ‘21, the school board is formally requesting that the city again fund us at the level of $3,000,000 for our FY ’21 budget.”

– Jamie Burgess

That funding is the same amount NPS asked for last year and accounts for 87% of the maximum allowable funding the city can give the school district based on factors like student count and overall city budget. The Nome City Council will make a final determination on NPS’ request in the coming weeks.

More immediately, with distance education in full swing, Nome-Beltz principal Jay Thomas shed some light on what grading looks like in the final quarter of this current school year.

“We did have a couple of seniors that we’re failing, third quarter. So, the way that really works is their third quarter grade isn’t their semester grade.”

– Jay Thomas

Principal Thomas goes on to say that fourth quarter grades can only help students. If a student had a passing grade in the third quarter, then that grade could not drop below passing in the fourth quarter.

At the end of Tuesday’s Nome School Board meeting, all action items were passed. That included an agreement between the district and all of its teachers, which was approved for FY ’21-23, as well as signing off on a capital improvement plan to take place over the next six years. Lastly, three offers were extended for exempt classified staff in HR, IT, and Systems Administration.

The Nome School Board will next be meeting for a work session, via Zoom, on the 28th of this month.

Image at top: A generic sharpened pencil with paper. Photo from the Public Domain.