TOPEKA – The Kansas State Board of Education has established a temporary advisory board to improve and reform Native American learning systems in the state.
Cheryl Harrison-Lee, chair of the Kansas Board of Regents, said the council’s establishment will help state education officials fill the enrollment gaps for underserved Kansans. The KBOE created the council to focus on K-12 Native American education, but believes it will also help guide higher education.
“Anytime we have the opportunity to create council mechanisms to get really broader voices on higher education issues, I think that’s a win,” Harrison-Lee said.
The Board established the Kansas Advisory Council for Indigenous Education Working Group during its May meeting.
Citing recent discussions with Native American education stakeholders, the council is “a symbol of good faith dialogue between multiple institutions working toward the long-term goal of establishing a more permanent and formal Advisory Council on Indian Education as we work together to improve our learning systems around Native Americans.” to better serve students, families, communities and nations in Kansas,” the board said.
In the near term, the council will work to build relationships between Kansas’ education systems and Native American advocacy groups, as well as identify funding to establish a full-time coordinator position, make short-term recommendations for education reform in the United States, and study similar councils in other states.
In the longer term, the Council will work towards the creation and development of a permanent Advisory Board.
Council members are yet to be appointed, but it will consist of 12 voting members, a chair and two honorary members.
The Kansas Board of Regents elected two of the 12 voting members at its June meeting.
One is Melissa Peterson, director of tribal relations at the University of Kansas. Peterson has held this position since 2021 and has been at KU since 2015. Peterson previously served as Associate Director for KU TRIO Supportive Educational Services and STEM, supporting Haskell University and the KU Exchange Program at the KU Office of Diversity and Equity.
Peterson is a member of the Navajo Nation and, according to her biography on the KU website, belongs to the Tł ‘ízí lání (Many Goats) clan, born to the Todích’íí’nii (Bitter Water) clan.
“I think her leadership and background will bring a much-needed voice to the council,” Harrison-Lee said.
Daniel Archer is the second member appointed by the Regents. Since 2019 he has been KBOR Vice President for Academic Affairs. Before coming to Kansas, Archer served as Assistant Vice Chancellor for Academic Affairs with the Regents for Higher Education at Oklahoma State University, Registrar at Southwestern Oklahoma State University, and as an academic and international advisor at Oklahoma State University-Oklahoma City.
Archer now resides in Lenexa with his wife, Lindsey — an attorney and member of the Chickasaw Nation — and their two children.
“He brings his knowledge and experience of researching academic matters and has a strong focus on improving academic outcomes for segments of our student population that we have traditionally not served,” said Harrison-Lee.
After all members have been appointed, the council meets at least once a month and establishes an online presence. While it is not yet clear if this online presence will be through KBOR, KSDE or KBOE, they plan to share recommendations, relevant deals, news, resources and photos.
“The Council’s goals align perfectly with several of the Regents’ strategic priorities,” Harrison-Lee said. “We are also focused on working with the (Kansas State Department of Education) to create a more seamless transition from high school to college for all students. I think what we will learn from the Council’s work is that we can apply to higher education to make progress in both areas.”