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College Regents Authorize New Environmental Charter School

By Joe Morey News Editor


The Lac Courte Oreilles Ojibwe College Board of Regents voted to authorize an environmental charter school to operate within the Waadookodaading Ojibwe Language Institute following the award of a $3.3-million-dollar grant from the U.S. Department of Education to get the charter school started.


The grant was awarded early last year and it remained uncertain where the college would be located or how it would be operated until the recent vote by the Regents.


Former LCO Vice Chairman Jason Schlender was instrumental in achieving the grant and explained the environmental school concept as a school with a culture-based curriculum that integrates traditional ecological knowledge, language, and other aspects of Identity into the classroom. It’s an English medium school with heavy Ojibwe language infusion, he added.


Schlender said the grant provides all of the necessary funding it needs to get started, but once the school is operational it will receive charter school funding from the Bureau of Indian Education and the State of Wisconsin.


“Wisconsin state law has granted the Lac Courte Oreilles Ojibwe Community College the ability to authorize charter schools,” Schlender said. “This is the role of the LCO Ojibwe Community College. The LCOOCC has ratified policies so that it may authorize charter schools to enhance educational opportunities for the LCO Tribe.”


In 2016, the college was given authority to charter six schools.


The college’s legal counsel, James Schlender Jr, said a charter school can be basically anything so long has it has basic curriculum and a specific training, which in this case is environmental issues.


“What the college wants to do is develop charters with Ojibwe language and culture and stay consistent with the mission of the college,” Schlender stated.


The mission of the college states, “the Lac Courte Oreilles Ojibwe College mission is to provide Anishinaabe communities with post-secondary and continuing education while advancing the language, culture, and history of the Ojibwe.”


The new charter school, a school within a school, will be located in the Waadookodaading School where environmental issues are already taught and with the new charter school, language and culture can be taught.


Former Vice Chairman Schlender said the school’s target students are the at-risk students that are underserved in the Hayward Community School district and the LCO Ojibwe School.


“In Hayward, only 54% of the native students graduate as opposed to 92% of the non-native students,” said Schlender.