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Obama to be invited to education conference

Feb 3, 2014 - By Alejandra Silva, Staff Writer

Wyoming Department of Education officials say the agency will send an invitation to President Barack Obama, asking him to be a guest at the Wyoming Native American Education Conference in August.

WDE chief strategy officer Leighton Thomas announced the department's plans at the Wyoming Legislature's Select Committee on Tribal Relations meeting Jan. 7.

In August, two members of the White House cabinet -- U.S. Secretary of Interior Sandy Jewell and U.S. Secretary of Education Arne Duncan -- visited Fremont County and the Wind River Indian Reservation as part of an education forum at Central Wyoming College.

The Wyoming Native American Education Conference, which is organized by the Wyoming Tribal Children's Triad, aims to provide useful information on all aspects of education on the reservation for current students, potential college students, teachers, parents and other community members. The conference includes break-out sessions, forums and other events to determine how to create a positive educational environment for the reservation's residents.

Last year, Jewell and Duncan participated in an hourlong education forum that focused on federal funding for the education of American Indians, sequestration, early childhood education and Native language. Afterward they visited the Arapahoe and St. Stephen's Indian schools.

Thomas said the Wyoming Native American Education Conference also is planned for August at CWC.

Select Committee on Tribal Relations co-chairman Rep. Patrick Goggles, D-Ethete, said the group could make that same request to the president in hopes of securing a visit.

Thomas said of all the surveys collected at the forum, 16 percent of conference participants said the conference was OK, 39 percent said it was excellent and 45 percent said it was good.

Education improvement

Thomas also presented to the committee a draft of a strategic plan the WDE is working on to enhance and improve education in the state. She explained the six priorities the plan focuses on and later took comments from parents in the meeting room. Attendees expressed their concern in teaching American Indian students specifically, teaching others with disabilities, and distinguishing career-ready and college-ready students.

Thomas said the WDE plans to treat each school on an individual case, request input from school officials, and ensure all students obtain the education they deserve and need.