Haskell Indian Nations University in Lawrence, Kansas and Sipi in Albuquerque, New Mexico seem to be getting the short end of the stick with Haskell’s President being detailed to Sipi while Haskell itself is undergoing the accreditation process.
I am sure you are all familiar with the Cobell litigation and the assertions that the US Government mismanaged fiscal resources for years. The total of these fiscal resources can not be reconstructed and the lost interest, opportunity, and energy can not be estimated. Even federal officials cannot begin to calculate the amount of time and resources they have now put into investigation and discovery.
This case remains on a high profile throughout Indian Country. I would like to draw some comparisons.
All tribal leaders, elders and even those of you listed in this correspondence would attest that the single biggest resource for Indian tribes is its youth-the next generations. Tribal leaders lobby for more money for education and are quick to ask questions about cutbacks that affect schools, both public and BIE serving Indian kids.
If students are the biggest resource and are actually more important then paper money, then why does the BIA continue to hire and promote individuals who have no experience or expertise to run those schools.
Even more importantly, why does Interior’s top officials continue to look the other way when decision affecting those schools jeopardize the quality of education affecting this resource.
I will list some examples : Under the Bush administration, the BIA separated onto two Bureaus, essentially creating a Bureau of Indian Education. Then, they established another 15 SES positions. They began filling these positions with people who can not qualify for like positions in the public sector ( state superintendent to state superintendent ) because they are not certified. They hired senior level managers who are not qualified. Stephanie Birdwell is a social worker. She has no prior experience in higher education and she is the director of all the post-secondary schools. She was allowed to sit in the position as acting director to give her the opportunity to qualify. At least one other applicant had a doctorate in higher education from Harvard and had worked at AIHEC the tribal college consortium. What is the single best qualification Ms.Birdwell has ? Her husband works in the same office.
What are the qualifications of Mr.Bighorn? He is currently chief of staff and is known throughout the country as a basketball referee. I am wondering if you would put your child in a school, particularly a college run by a social worker with no higher education experience, or a school run by a basketball referee.
What are the qualifications of Kevin Skenadore ? He has been acting throughout the past five years. The BIE paid a national headhunter $ 80,000+ to find the best qualified director candidates. This company spent a year looking for candidates, narrowed it down to three and the BIE hired none of them and kept Mr. Skenandore. The Salazar administration, under Obama, has maintained this acting position when there are at least five individuals in the BIE who are credentialed to run a school district, including have a doctorate. Are these individuals used to create policy or implement programs. Pretty much each of them have been regulated to the fringes of BIE management. None of them are in the senior management meetings.
I wonder if that is the best use of the resources Mr.Skenandore has available? I wonder why someone who begun as dorm aide would not want to have the opportunity to listen to people who just might know what an educational program is really supposed to do. Perhaps, doing it the same old way ( which by the way means most of the schools are in recovery ) is all it takes this close to retirement.
That likely explains Mr.Skenandore’s attitude, but it does not excuse a new Assistant Secretary or a new Secretary.
Just last week, Ms. Birdwell ( the social worker I previously mentioned ) announced to Haskell Indian Nations University campus that she was sending Haskell President, Dr.Linda Sue Warner to SIPI to rescue SIPI’s accreditation site visit :
United States Dept of The Interior
Bureau of Indian Education
Sept 15, 2009
To: Haskell Indian Nation University
All Faculty Personnel Contract Personnel
From : Stephanie Birdwell
Subject : Administrative Detail
This memorandum serves to inform you of administrative action regarding The Haskell Nations University President. Dr. Linda Sue Warner. Effective Sept 21, 2009, Dr.Warner will begin a 120 day assignment to the campus of The Southwestern Indian Polytechnic Institute in Albuquerque, N.M. This detail assignment is necessary to assist the SIPI administration with it’s upcoming accreditation evaluation process, as well as with other strategic planning for the institute. Dr.Warner is scheduled to return to Haskell following the end of her detail assignment on January 21, 2010. During the initial 30 days of Dr.Warner’s absence, Mr.Chris Redman will serve as Acting President, and is scheduled to arrive on campus Tuesday, Sept 29,2009. Following Mr.Redman’s 30 day period at Haskell, I will either assign another Indian Affairs Manager, or extend Mr.Redman’s appointment as necessary.
CC : Haskell Indian National Board of Regents
Haskell Indian Nations Faculty Senate These site visits are ten years apart and SIPI’s next review is this year. Why would Ms.Birdwell, who has had this job as acting and now permanent for two years, wait until weeks before the site visit to notice that SIPI is at risk ?
Is SIPI at risk ? Did Ms.Birdwell ask the SIPI President, Sherri Allison? By the comments on SIPI’s campus and the distribute of emails from the Presidents office, it would appear that not only does SIPI not need help from Haskell, they didn’t ask for it.
Why would Ms.Birdwell send Haskell’s President Warner to SIPI to save their accreditation when Haskell has a site visit during the same time? Is it to block Haskell’s new programs?
Haskell is proposing two new degrees, one in health professions. It just isn’t the one Birdwell wants. She wants to spend Haskell’s money on a nursing degree. Even so, why jeopardize the one that the campus has approved.
Is Ms. Birdwell sending Haskell president to SIPI to sabotage the accreditation efforts on that campus ? Has Warner been directed to make sure they do not pass fully, that stipulations are added to make the current SIPI administration look bad? It sounds like a conspiracy question, but you have to wonder since Mr. Skenandore has no intention of hiring Sherri Allison as President of SIPI and perhaps needs a reason. It would be interesting to ask Haskell President Warner what her specific instructions were. In fact, since it’s a detail, there is probably a scope of work. Of course that won’t tell you what was in the conversation Ms.Birdwell had with Haskell President on campus.
I do note that Birdwell issued a directive to all employees, including Warner and Allison that they are not allowed to talk to the press.
( PLEASE BE ADVISED THAT BIE STAFF ARE NOT TO RESPOND TO ANY PRESS OR MEDIA INQUIRIES MADE TO YOUR OFFICES. Stephanie E. Birdwell Bureau of Indian Education Deputy Director Policy, Evaluation & Post Secondary Education 1849 C St. NW MIB MS-3618 Washington, D.C.
I wonder what she is covering up.
While we looking at Ms.Birdwell’s recent actions, I will also point out that the week before Haskell’s semester started, Ms.Birdwell called down and changed the fall schedule. Haskell has an enrollment of about 1,000 students each semester. Schedules are made as early as February for the fall enrollment ( an educator would know that ). Changing the schedule meant that students returned to campus with no campus with no classes and were scrambling to add to maintain enough enrollment to stay in the dorms. This doesn’t even speak to the fact that they added just anything, not something that would be in their degree plan.
Was anyone on campus, specifically the President, asked for input on this decision? I wonder. I also wonder why Ms.Birdwell acts like the President made the change, when it was a specific directive.
Speaking of specific directives from Birdwell and Skenandore, both schools were operating under legislation that allowed for an alternative personnel system :
( An Act to Allow Haskell Indian Nations University and the Southwestern Indian Polytechnic Institute Each to Conduct a Demonstration Project to Test the Feasibility and Desirability of New Personnel Management Policies and Procedures, and for Other Purposes.
by United States. )
so that they could operate programs more efficiently. THIS WAS A FEDERAL LAW. Both Stephanie Birdwell and Kevin Skenandore DIRECTED Dr.Warner and DR.Hamley to write a letter to congress canceling the demonstration projects on their campuses. The presidents and the Secretary of Interior were the only individuals who could make this decision and Skenandore and Birdwell could not convince the Secretary to do it, but they know that a direct order has to be followed.
I would be surprised if the senators who supported this legislation even know.
I know that most of these people within the system do not care about Indian children; it is evident in the really poor decisions made, including the hiring of unqualified people at SES positions.
I know that someone has to file a lawsuit to get the attention of these folks…and even at that, Cobell lingers in negotiations.
Secretary Salazar and Assistant Secretary EchoHawk, you should be embarrassed. Actually Kevin Skenadore should be embarrassed, but he will just go fishing.