Sealaska Heritage Institute (SHI) has signed a memorandum of agreement (MOA) with the Juneau School District and University of Alaska Southeast, Juneau Campus, in an effort to increase the communication and collaboration among the organizations.
The organizations will work together through the William G. Demmert Memorandum of Agreement to provide enhanced cultural, instructional, academic, and career placement opportunity for Juneau’s students, said SHI President Rosita Worl, noting the MOA will be used to support, design, implement, and sustain existing and new projects and programs.
“It builds on the years of experience where we’ve worked together,” Worl said. “It’s formalizing our relationship and what we see for the future.”
The MOA was signed this week by Worl, UAS Chancellor John Pugh and Juneau School District Assistant Superintendent Laury Scandling at a meeting also attended by Joe Nelson, SHI Trustee and UAS Dean of Enrollment Management, Admissions; Richard Caulfield, UAS Provost and Executive Dean, School of Career Education; and Patty Newman, the district’s Director of Curriculum, Instruction and Assessment.
“This MOA confirms some of the things we are doing now, but it also marks an era where we’re seeing a real shift in thinking,” Pugh said. “We’re going to commit to moving forward even further.”
“We’re very happy to formalize this,” Scandling said. “Sometimes I hear people say ‘Oh it’s just a piece of paper.’ And as a former teacher of history, I want to say ‘Well, so was the Constitution!’”
The first joint project under the agreement is scheduled in August in Juneau. Under the project, new- and first-year teachers at the district and the university will participate in Wooch Yax, a two-day orientation that will include an overview on Native cultures and history with an emphasis on integrating culturally-based curriculum and knowledge into the classroom. The term Wooch Yax is a Native value based on balance, respect and reciprocity and refers to working together.
Future projects may incorporate SHI’s resources, which include curriculum, books and a large digital archive of historical photos, documents and recordings. A number of the activities cited in the agreement will take place after construction of SHI’s Walter Soboleff Center, which will be built across from Sealaska Plaza on the lot formerly known as “the pit.”
The MOA is named for the late William G. Demmert, a Native teacher and administrator in Southeast Alaska schools who played a major role in shaping educational programs for Native Americans and Alaska Natives at the local, regional and national levels. He also served as a professor and dean at UAS, as a commissioner for the Alaska Department of Education, and as a trustee to SHI.
“He symbolizes for us the partnership that can be forged among educational institutions that have a direct impact on our children’s future,” Worl said.
Sealaska Heritage Institute is a private, nonprofit founded in 1980 to promote cultural diversity and cross-cultural understanding. The institute is governed by a Board of Trustees and guided by a Council of Traditional Scholars. Its mission is to perpetuate and enhance Tlingit, Haida, and Tsimshian cultures of Southeast Alaska.
CONTACT: Rosita Worl, SHI President, 907.463.4844; John Pugh, Chancellor, UAS, 796-6272; Laury Scandling, Assistant Superintendent, Juneau School District, 523-1703.