Ukiah Unified School District

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The Power of Partnership, Innovation and Learning

School Desk Blog: Pomo Pride at Calpella Elementary

At Calpella Elementary, as we strive to eliminate cultural barriers, we want to create a respectful learning environment that values the diversity of all students.  Last year, along with Oak Manor Elementary, we began to pilot a Native American Cultural Awareness Program organized by retired UUSD teacher, Phyllis Binder. Local Title VI Parent Groups identified the need for more culturally relevant programs in our schools and we listened. The program was made possible through a grant from the Pinoleville Pomo Tribe, which brought cultural presenters from local Pomo groups into the classroom.  

The first step was to facilitate a Cultural Sensitivity Panel of local Pomo community members sharing stories of Pomo history with our teachers and staff. The panel included discussion and a question and answer session.  The next step was to have Pomo presenters go into our classrooms to share their rich history using storytelling and teaching students some Pomo vocabulary and cultural practices. Three classroom visits were provided to each class involved at Calpella.

The Native American Cultural Awareness Program is thriving again this year through the work of Corine Pearce, a continuation of the grant, and the partnership of Calpella.  The teachers feel like this is so beneficial to all involved that we are sharing the cost of funding the program next year through our school plan for student achievement. Each grade level will continue to receive grade-appropriate stories, vocabulary, and activities. 

I am excited to report that our Native American subgroup at Calpella Elementary has outperformed all other subgroups at our school in English Language Arts for three consecutive years now, and two of the last three years in math as well. This subgroup has grown to be 16% of our total population at Calpella Elementary, which is around 80 students.

One of the great secrets to our success is Michael Halligan, our Title VI Native American Counselor, who is beginning his 5th year of support for our students. He provides lunchtime activities as well as supports students academically and being a site liaison between families and the school.

We have a great group of Pomo community members that are currently serving students at Calpella and Oak Manor Elementary schools through their involvement with the Native American Cultural Awareness Program. Please join me in thanking Susan Billy, Brian Yepez, Anna Rodriguez, Buffie Schmidt, Richard Hamilton, Bonnie Lockhart, Corine Pearce, Erica Carson, Candace Lowe, Angela James, and Julian Maldonado for their hard work. 

Through the building of relationships between the schools and our Pomo communities, we are opening doors and minds to Pomo history and culture not included in the regular curriculum. We are giving our Pomo youth a chance to be recognized by all students and staff for their uniqueness and assuring inclusiveness in their learning.