Chief Kitsap Academy expands

Peg Deam sings a traditional song Sept. 5, 2012, the first day Chief Kitsap Academy was open.                                           - Kipp Robertson / File photo
Peg Deam sings a traditional song Sept. 5, 2012, the first day Chief Kitsap Academy was open.
— image credit: Kipp Robertson / File photo

SUQUAMISH — Chief Kitsap Academy, established to offer Native high school students culture-based curriculum and individualized attention, is expanding to grades 6-12 in the 2013-14 school year.

The decision to expand the academy follows a “very successful” first year, said Joe Davalos, superintendent of the Suquamish Tribe Education Department.

The academy will enroll about 15 middle-school students, Davalos said. Some spaces are already filled. Class sizes are expected to range from 12-15 students, he said.

Enrolling middle-schoolers may provide early help to more students at risk of not graduating on time. Across the country, according to Davalos’ research, ninth-graders who fail one class are at 75 percent risk of not graduating on time. Working with middle-school students, the academy’s staff could intervene early.

The attendance rate for the 2012-13 year was 93 percent. Davalos credited student participation rate with the students’ having “more ownership” over their education, and receiving one-on-one instruction time. Halfway through the year, each student was also receiving time with a mentor. Small class sizes benefit student learning as well.

“We had a boy who missed over 60 days [in the 2011-12] year,” before the academy opened, Davalos said. “This year, he missed six.”

Staff members have a direct hand in each students’ development. Davalos said instructors have put in the time to know the students, and can recognize potential academic problems and address them in a timely manner.

In 2012-13, all five seniors graduated on time and are going to college, Davalos said.

Next year’s enrollment is expected to include about 25 high school students  and the middle-school students that enroll. The academy is not expected to enroll more than 50 students, Davalos said.

Staffing next year will stay the same. Library services may increase, Davalos said. A remodel of the second floor of the academy building is being finalized.

Chief Kitsap Academy, formerly Early College High School, opened at the start of the 2012-13 school year. The academy partnered with the North Kitsap School District to allow students living on the Suquamish reservation — Native American and non-Native — to enroll, but the academy is funded primarily by the Suquamish Tribe.

The academy offers classes and materials with a Native American focus. Students can study tribal sovereignty, take a Lushootseed foreign language class, and participate in the Healing of the Canoe, which promotes cultural identity, health and wellness among S’Klallam and Suquamish students.

Academy students are required to take all state-mandated tests; students are also enrolled as district students.

Davalos said middle-school students attending the academy in 2013-14 will have the opportunity to enroll in the Lushootseed classes and Healing of the Canoe program.

The academy is working to build more collaboration with other institutions, such as Olympic College, University of Washington, and Northwest Indian College, giving students more dual-credit options, Davalos said.


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