We’ve spent quite a lot of time out and about in the community this week.
Yesterday the four of us attended a school board meeting for the St. Francis Indian School. Unfortunately, this wasn’t just a pleasant viewing of local politics. No, we are already in the middle between what seems to be a power play between the school board and the mission (by run the Jesuits for whom we work). First, a little background information to being you all into the loop. Decades ago, the mission ran the school. It was a Catholic boarding school. Later, the mission handed the school over to the tribe and it became a Bureau of Indian Education school. However, the school and the mission made an agreement that if parents signed a permission slip, their kids would be able to leave school for 45 minutes each week and walk over to the religious education building to receive religious education. This is how it has worked since and this is also how it works in Rosebud, where I teach. Last year 200 students received religious education in St. Francis alone. Congratulations, you are now in the loop.
However, this year, the school board has decided not to let the children out to attend religious ed classes. They say they have to address failing test scores with a rigorous new curriculum which does not allow time for such classes. (Rosebud has continued on as usual, which is why I have been teaching kids). The meeting was a chance for the mission to voice it’s opinion and disappointment (to put it nicely) at the breaking of this long standing agreement. Fr. Hatcher read a prepared statement which explained how a religious background can help some of these kids who feel desperate and isolated. Afterwards, other members of the community came forward to speak. A lot of people gave their support for the mission, although some, after long rambling stories which had little relevance to the matters at hand, agreed with the school board’s decision to keep children from attending religious education classes. It seems that some people have some animosity towards the Church. Yeah, and when have they not?
This is frustrating to me. The mission is not forcing religion on anyone. They turned a Catholic school into a public school, but wished to allow the option of religious education if the parents so desired to send their children. It’s not a violation of church and state. It’s allowing for private citizens to have more options in the education of their children.
We’ll see how this all eventually turns out.
Tonight, Monica, Neil and I went to a St. Francis High School football game against Todd County. It was not pretty, and the SF Warriors lost 54-14. Good ol’ high school football.
Also today, in the middle of teaching first graders, a teacher from Rosebud elementary came and collected all the students, announcing that school was closing early because all the water had been contaminated due to some construction in the area. So I had an early day.
Oh South Dakota, you’re so silly.