TOPEKA — The Kansas State Board of Education has established a temporary advisory council to improve and reform American Indian learning systems in the state.
Cheryl Harrison-Lee, chair of the Kansas Board of Regents, said the creation of the board will help state education officials as they try to close enrollment gaps for underserved Kansans. The KBOE created the council to focus on K-12 American Indian education, but believes it will also help guide higher education.
“Anytime we have the opportunity to create advisory mechanisms to really get broader voices on higher education issues, I think that’s a plus,” Harrison-Lee said.
The board established the Kansas Advisory Council for Native Education Task Force at its May meeting.
Citing recent discussions with Native American education stakeholders, the council “is a symbol of good faith dialogue between several institutions working towards the long-term goal of establishing a more permanent and formal advisory council for education. Native Americans as we work collaboratively to improve our learning systems to better serve Native American students, families, communities, and nations in Kansas,” according to the board.
In the short term, the council will work to build relationships between Kansas education systems and Native American stakeholders, as well as identify funding to create a full-time coordinator position, create recommendations for term for Native American education reform and seeking similar guidance in other states.
In the long term, the board will work to create and build a permanent advisory board.
Council members are still being appointed, but it will consist of 12 voting members, a chair and two honorary members.
The Kansas Board of Regents voted for two of 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 with KU since 2015. Peterson previously served as Associate Director for KU TRIO Supportive Educational Services and STEM and assisted Haskell University and the KU exchange program in the Office of Diversity and Equity of KU.
Peterson is a member of the Navajo Nation and part of the Tł’ízí lání (many goats) clan born for the Todích’íí’nii (bitter water) clan, according to his biography on the KU website.
“I believe his leadership role and experience will bring a much-needed voice to the board,” Harrison-Lee said.
Daniel Archer is the second member appointed by the regents. He has served as KBOR’s Vice President of Academic Affairs since 2019. Prior to coming to Kansas, Archer served as Deputy Vice Chancellor for Academic Affairs at Oklahoma State University Regents for Higher Education, Registrar at Southwestern Oklahoma State University and in as an academic. and International Advisor at Oklahoma State University-Oklahoma City.
Archer now lives in Lenexa with his wife, Lindsey – a lawyer and member of the Chickasaw Nation – and their two children.
“He brings his knowledge and experience in university affairs research and is very focused on improving academic outcomes for segments of our student population that we have not traditionally served,” Harrison-Lee said.
Once all members are appointed, the board will meet at least once a month and establish an online presence. While it is not yet determined if this online presence will be through KBOR, KSDE or KBOE, they plan to share recommendations, relevant cases, news, resources and photos.
“The council’s goals align well 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 we will learn from the council’s work that we can apply to higher education to advance in both areas.