How effective are organizations like NHA and BIA schools?

WINDOW ROCK, June 19, 2014

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F irst the usual disclaimer -- the views in this letter are my personal thoughts and do not reflect the position or thoughts of any present or past client or employer.

In recent months the Navajo Times has run a number of stories on "turf" battles concerning control of the Navajo Housing Authority, BIA-funded schools that serve the Navajo Nation and P.L. 93-638 contracted health care facilities.

It seems to me that there are two basic questions that ought to be asked with respect to such institutions and the proposals for change: 1) What are the current outcomes and are they at least satisfactory? and 2) Whether and how the proposed changes will improve outcomes? So, for example, looking at NHA the question would be whether NHA is making good progress in addressing the unmet housing needs of Navajo people; whether it is expending the funds made available to it in a timely and efficient manner; whether it builds quality housing; whether it properly maintains the existing housing stock, etc.

If the answer is that the current "outcomes" are satisfactory, then there is no reason for structural change. If the outcomes are not satisfactory, then change is needed and the proposed changes should be examined to see whether they are likely to bring about the needed changes.

For health care facilities, the type of health care comparisons that medicare.gov suggests may well be appropriate for an outcome analysis. (These would include such things as patient satisfaction, proper diagnosis and treatment, lower than average mortality rates, lower than average readmission rates, lower than average wait times for appointments and to be seen when the patient has an appointment, etc.) Again if the comparative analysis showed a facility to be properly serving its patients, then it would make no sense to make structural changes affecting such a fully performing facility. ("If it isn't broken, don't fool with it.") If the analysis revealed significant deficiencies, then structural changes are needed, and the proposed changes would then need a careful review to determine whether they would be likely to correct the deficiencies.

So too with BIA-funded schools, the outcome analysis should consider such thinks as promotion/graduation rates, retention of students and highly qualified staff, performance on standardized tests, audit findings and the like. If such an analysis suggests a fully performing school, then it ought to be permitted to continue to operate as it has. If not, then change, which is likely to improve conditions is needed.

Finally, I would suggest that in all situations the focus should be on the needs of the consumer of the entity's activities -- the Navajo in need of housing, the Navajo patient, the Navajo student and how such needs can best be met, and not whether a local community wants control or whether the Navajo central government ("Window Rock") wants control.

Lawrence A. Ruzow
Flagstaff, Ariz.


Dennison-Jackson should be allowed to return as WRSD superintendent

In reaction to the Navajo Times article on June 12, 2014 entitled "WR board extends Dennison's leave 30 more days" is precarious and an uncertain move on the part of the newly installed governing board, March 18, 2014. The continuous Window Rock School District educational improvement, student achievement, and accomplishments are at stake.

It reminds me of what the late renowned educator, Bob Roessel, said in the Navajo Education Journal years ago "Navajos are their own worse enemy because of jealousy."

As a longtime Navajo educator, I believe putting Deborah Dennison-Jackson, superintendent, Window Rock Unified School District, on an extended leave is counterproductive to the soaring accomplishments the school district have made under her educational leadership and the ousted governing board.

It appears to me Jackson-Dennison worked well with the previous governing board members that were recalled recently. The governing board then, Jackson-Dennison, and school district have made tremendous accomplishments foremost student achievement according to a report in The Scout News, WRUSD, Jan. 8, 2014.

Only by "working together" as a team like Jackson-Dennison points out can anything be accomplished. She also points out "things do not happen overnight" referring to student achievement, high graduation rates, student won awards, student school attendance, and events center construction. In recent years WRUSD is an Arizona Department of Education performing/higher than a performing school status as reported in The Scout News.

Under the new 2011 A-F grade system of rating an Arizona Department of Education public schools' performance, Jackson-Dennison reports WRUSD is the highest performing school system on the Navajo Nation slightly under "C".

When you look at The Scout News report from 2002 to 2014 (there's a gap of fours right in the middle of those years) when Jackson-Dennison was not the district superintendent. In the four years from 2005 to 2009, the school district student achievement, and other programs went "backwards" such as the events center planning and construction.

The report indicates Jackson-Dennison came back to the school district as its superintendent in 2009 and student achievement and progress resumed under her leadership working together with the recalled governing board members, parents, administrators, teachers, support staff, and community. Jackson-Dennison gives a lot credit to the team effort of everyone. Only an outstanding leader will say that.

Jackson-Dennison is one of our own, your own, an outstanding educator (my opinion), and a product of WRUSD. She said she was happy to return to the school (district as superintendent), a former student where she came from -- WRUSD, wow!

Every day Jackson-Dennison is on forced leave, education of children suffers. There are many things to prepare for before the children return to school in August.

Current WRUSD governing board members, I encourage you to bring back Deborah Jackson-Dennison as the district school superintendent. You need her, the district needs her, the community needs her, and most importantly -- the children need her.

Eugene Charley
Kayenta, Ariz.

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