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Tulalip Tribes award $1.26 million to Marysville schools
TULALIP — At the beginning of the Tulalip Tribal Board of Directors' Feb. 10 meeting, Board member Don Hatch Jr. asked a group of students from Tulalip Elementary to take seats at the table in the center of the Boardroom.
"I'd rather you all see the kids than see us," said Hatch, a former member of the Marysville School District Board of Directors. "The children are who we're doing this for, so they should get some glory out of this."
Hatch was referring to the Tribes' decision to award $1.26 million for regional educational improvements to the Marysville School District, which the Tribal Board officially announced at that meeting, to an audience that included representatives of the school district, the city of Marysville, the Marysville Education Association and the Greater Marysville Tulalip Chamber of Commerce.
Tribal Board Chair Mel Sheldon Jr. explained that these monies will be targeted toward providing new science curriculum for middle schools, teaching materials and funds for two district math coaches, a new data system to track and react to student achievement and discipline, all-day kindergarten classes and teaching positions at the Tulalip and Quil Ceda elementary schools, and funding for multicultural respect and awareness programs.
"We know these are tough times," Sheldon said. "We hear that there's more optimism out there, but there's not a lot of money yet to go with it."
Sheldon cited the difficult budget prioritization decisions facing school district staff, including Superintendent Dr. Larry Nyland, whom Sheldon praised for his outreach and advocacy efforts. Sheldon and Hatch both noted that the Tribal Board unanimously agreed to award the district with $1.26 million, in addition to the more than $1.8 million which the Tribes already contribute annually to education initiatives.
"I'm proud that I didn't even have to bring it up to my colleagues here," Hatch said. "They were already saying that we needed to help the schools. This Tribal Council walks its talk."
Nyland credited the Tribes' funds with helping the district deal with "unprecedented cuts" to their mid-school year budget.
"This gift makes an immense difference in giving a much brighter academic future to our students during a dark time," Nyland said.
School Board Vice President Wendy Fryberg, a Tulalip Tribal member, was visibly overcome with emotion when she echoed Nyland's expressions of gratitude to the Tribal Board.
"It's really beautiful to see the children here," Fryberg said. "I appreciate the relationship between the district and the Tribes, because it shows that we're all one community."
Marysville Mayor Jon Nehring echoed Fryberg's commendations of this partnership, as he deemed the Tribes "trailblazers" for their reinvestments in the community. He asserted the importance of the school district in attracting businesses and families to the area and characterized the district, the Tribes, the city and the Chamber as all being committed to developing the economy by creating more jobs for younger generations.
"This investment will pay off as we continue to work toward closing the achievement gap," MEA President Arden Watson said. "This is a passion of mine and I've found many partners who share it. Without your commitment, we couldn't move forward with things that need to happen."
Chamber President and CEO Caldie Rogers thanked the leadership of Tribes, on behalf of the Tulalip Marysville Chamber of Commerce, for their investment, which she likewise predicted would impact the area business community for generations to come.
"We applaud this because we recognize that our youth are the workforce of tomorrow and how vitally important it is that they be an educated workforce," Rogers said. "You truly put the 'partner' in partnership — a partnership that's the envy of our nation, which is held as a national role model for others to strive for by the U.S. Chamber of Commerce."
Tribal Board member Glen Gobin added that the Tribes had initially expected to donate $400,000, and originally saw it as an opportunity to support varsity sports for Marysville Getchell High School, but they reconsidered when they assessed the district's deeper needs.
"It's for a good cause, which is sitting in the chair in front of us," Gobin said, gesturing to the students. "We need to give them a better foothold for the future, so they might be able to sit in our seats someday, or yours."