July 25, 2008

Dzilth-Na-O-Dith-Hle Principal Dismissed: School May Start Without Top Admins

By Alysa Landry, The Daily Times, Farmington, N.M.

Jul. 25--BLOOMFIELD -- The school year at Dzilth-na-o-dith-hle Community School may begin with vacancies in two of the top three administrative positions.

Principal Rose Woody was dismissed last week following direction from the school board, and Executive Director Gary Jackson resigned in June. Classes at the community grant school begin Aug. 20.

Board member Irene Betoni refused to comment, but the board issued a letter Wednesday notifying staff that it appointed an acting principal pending a decision to recruit a permanent leader. The letter, signed by Board President Eugene Guerito, reveals that Woody did not have the proper accreditation for the position.

"A state accrediting body advised that ... the person in that office must have a New Mexico Administrative License," the letter states. "Accordingly, we had to strictly enforce that requirement."

Jackson and Woody were targeted by a group of parents and employees pushing for reform at the school. The two administrators also were named in a complaint filed with the New Mexico Public Education Department.

The complaint, spearheaded by former employee Kim Tsosie, also named Finance Director Faye BlueEyes. BlueEyes still is employed and temporarily is leading the school until the positions are filled.

"The executive director position is being advertised," she said. "It's up to the board to make a hire, and they are being really careful and making sure they get a good applicant."

Dzilth-na-o-dith-hle Community School opened in 1968 under Bureau of Indian Affairs jurisdiction, but became a grant school in 2005, shifting control away from the federal government. It operates locally and is governed by a school board, but answers to the Eastern Navajo Education Line Office in Crownpoint, which oversees 18 tribal schools.

The school serves about 240 students in kindergarten through eighth grade from the Nageezi, Counselor and Huerfano chapters in its boarding facilities and day school. It employs about 25 certified staff members.

Critics of the school have claimed administrators operate in secret, misuse federal funds and enforce unfair policies. Tensions escalated in May when protesters marched outside the school twice during the last week of school, a demonstration that prompted school officials to alert the Navajo Nation police.

Administrators have argued that school opponents are acting on inaccurate information and their opinions are not representative of the majority of the staff and parents.

BlueEyes released a summary of the school's annual audit this week, which found no incidents of fraud or misappropriation of assets. However, the audit found three significant deficiencies, according to the summary. A significant deficiency is an internal glitch that could affect the entity's ability to report financial data consistent with assertions of management.

The auditing company, Keystone Accounting, of Farmington, refused to comment or to release the complete audit report.

The school must submit to an annual audit to maintain its grant status, according to regulations passed by the tribe and the federal government, BlueEyes said.

Critics continue to blast BlueEyes as the only remaining administrator named in the local complaints. Her opponents claim she practices nepotism and favoritism and misuses school resources. The complaints are similar to those that prompted Shiprock Alternative Schools Inc. to fire BlueEyes in 2005. She accepted a job at Dzilth-na-o-dith-hle Community School before the allegations were cleared.

BlueEyes, who worked for SASI for 25 years, filed a counter complaint with the Office of Navajo Labor Relations, claiming she was terminated without just cause and seeking remedial action.

The Navajo Nation Labor Commission ruled in BlueEyes' favor in 2006, ordering the school to provide lost wages and compensation for benefits and to clear her personnel record of termination information. Dzilth-na-o-dith-hle Community School employees, however, continue to fault BlueEyes for the incident.

Despite the continued complaints, BlueEyes said the school is facing a bright future.

"We have better communication already," she said. "We're making more efforts to talk to parents and keep information updated."


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