Late- November 2020 Newsletter!

CUSD Indigenous Education Program 2020-2021

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Happy Native American Heritage Month! #NAHM

Dear Indigenous Ed. Community,

First- we acknowledge that this November Newsletter is posted on December 1st. A few reasons for this:

  • The climates of: politics, race, the COVID-19 pandemic, and holiday observances in November 2020 brought on intense feelings, trauma, and conversations for many of us in the Indigenous Ed. community. Posting a "conclusive" November newsletter felt most appropriate after meeting with our IPC Officers, Indigenous Student Advisors, and Federal Programs leadership.
  • We were searching for, hiring, and training new/returning IPC Officers and Indigenous Student Advisors! You will get to know a few of them down below.
  • Our Instagram page was the best way to post frequent events and resources going on throughout November. Follow us if you aren't already @indigenouscusd!

The Chandler Unified School District Governing Board meeting on November 18th provided an update on the district's response to COVID-19 and mitigation strategies. Links to the presentation and other resources:

We hope that you all had a culturally rich, enjoyable, and safe Native American Heritage Month! Stay healthy and resilient. -The Indigenous Ed. Program

October IPC Meeting

We had our second 20-21 VIRTUAL IPC Meeting via Microsoft Teams on October 28th! Thank you to all who participated. Here is what we covered:

  • 20-21 New IPC Officers Announcement (Scroll down to meet our newly elected officers!)
  • Guest Speaker: Tribal Turning Point
  • Guest Speaker: Hoop of Learning Program

To view the PowerPoint presentation from the 10/28 meeting and learn more about the IPC, visit our website.

CUSD Governing Board Meeting November 18th

Tia Gramzinski delivered a proclamation to recognize Native American Heritage Month at the governing board meeting on 11/18/2020. A video of the Navajo National Anthem sung by Radmilla Cody was also broadcasted. It was livestreamed and posted on their YouTube Channel. Thank you to Dr. Adama Sallu for making it happen!

Native American Parent/Student Forums

CUSD will be hosting a VIRTUAL forum for Native American parents and students. The purpose is for CUSD leadership to listen to the lived experiences of Native American families in CUSD.

The goal during these forums is to create a safe and authentic space where selected Native American students and parents can share their thoughts & experiences. The current racial landscape demands that we hear the voices of Native American students and parents, so that we can work in creating safe learning spaces where they can thrive individually and collectively. We are mindful that students and parents selected do not speak for all Native American students or parents. Yet, the voices selected will have a space to share their own perspectives.

Please contact Tia ASAP or by December 2nd if you and/or your students are interested in participating in these forums.

  • When: Tuesday December 8, 2020 (Student) /Thursday, December 10, 2020 (Parent)
  • Time: 6:00p-7:30p (5:30P – participants will meet facilitators and ensure that technology is working) audience will login at 6:00p.m.

Meet our 20-21 IPC Officers & Indigenous Student Advisors!

**Please see school-specific updates!!*

IPC President- Cheryl Blie

Cheryl Blie is Diné/Navajo and she is from the Navajo Nation. She is of the Coyote Pass Clan, born for the Big Water clan. Cheryl received her Bachelor’s Degree in American Political Studies from Washington State University and Northern Arizona University. Cheryl graduated Summa Cum Laude from ASU Criminal Justice department with a Master’s Degree in Criminal Justice. She went on to work Indian Country in behavioral health, Community Development and administering ‘Substance Abuse Mental Health Services Administration’ (SAMHSA) grants. Cheryl is passionate about servicing Native people and is humbled to be a part of an opportunity that brings clinical behavioral health services to inner city American Indian youth & transitioned-aged youth (TAY) population. She has devoted her career to working with Native American agencies and programs. Cheryl’s first language is Navajo and she strives to incorporate cultural and traditional teachings and values into the education and outreach of behavioral and mental health issues. Cheryl recognizes the need for this form of instruction and has developed culturally sensitive training that addresses delivering the Navajo teachings of ‘empowering and honoring life’ in this way. Cheryl continues her passion in working in behavioral and mental health in the Phoenix urban Indian non-profit organizations.

IPC Vice President- Michelle Speaker

Hi I'm Michelle Speaker. My ancestry hails from the Oklahoma region; Creek & Cherokee, and my husband is Pawnee & Creek. I had 3 boys graduate from Perry High School and my youngest daughter is there now. I have been attending the Indigenous Parent Committee meetings for several years and have served previously as Secretary for two different presidents. I appreciate that more parents are getting the information and participating, as this program can really benefit so many children and families. My goal is to help encourage participation and help those that cannot prove their ancestry. My hobbies include family history, reading and gardening.

IPC Secretary- Kara Thrasher

Yá'át’ééh. My name is Kara Thrasher. I’m from the Salt (Áshįįhí nishłį́) and Many Goats (Tł'ízí łání Dashicheii) clans. I’m originally from Kayenta, AZ, and have lived in Flagstaff and now in Chandler. I have a B.S. in Psychology and Master's in Education, and currently work in the field of immigration. I have an adult daughter who graduated from Chandler High and a son who will graduate from Chandler High in 2021, so this is my last year as a parent of a student in the CUSD. I’m not looking forward to an empty nest since I love being with my kids so much! However, I look forward to continuing to support the Indigenous Ed. Program by attending IPC meetings, offering ideas, meeting families when possible, and serving as IPC Secretary this school year. In my spare time, I volunteer with my kids in programs that promote Native American education, health, and wellness. I like to watch good movies, cook healthy meals and goodies, and I'm slowly making progress in weaving my first rug.

Chandler High- Duane Freeman & Brett Parks

The Indigenous Ed. Program welcomes its newest Indigenous Student Advisor, Duane Freeman! Duane is passionate about Diversity, Equity, and Inclusion (DEI) work, empowering students, and giving voice to the voiceless. Duane has been doing DEI work since 2003. He has led faculty diversity and equity training at his schools, developed school retreats, coordinated in-service days, and run diversity assemblies for the entire school. At his last school he began a community connection program and worked closely with Native American Connections in Phoenix. After this work with that group, he felt a strong connection to the work around Indigenous folks and he is honored to be joining the Indigenous Education Team here at Chandler. He will be working alongside Brett Parks at CHS.

  • Freshman, Juniors, and CHS students with the last name Dah-Hix: Duane Freeman
  • Sophomores and Seniors: Brett Parks

Perry High- Megan Driving Hawk

Bio: Mrs. Driving Hawk is an Artist/Mother & Educator. Academically, she researches culturally responsive teaching in art education and Indigenous education. Creatively, she researches collective healing, generational trauma, memory, and time. This is Mrs. Driving Hawk ‘s fourth year working as the PHS Indigenous Student Advisor and eighth year as a classroom teacher. She has recently joined the Arizona Indian Education Association and has attended numerous conferences and workshops hosted by the Phoenix Indian Center, the Office of Arizona Indian Education and other equity and inclusion organizations. This is her third year working on the Equity team at her school site although she has worked on creating diverse and inclusive art ed curriculum since 2014. Indigenous issues are close to her heart as she is the wife and mother to Lakȟóta men.

Attention Perry students and parents! Please fill out the two surveys below. Students- be sure to login to your GSE account to submit the student survey. If you are not already a part of the PHS Indigenous Google Classroom, please contact Mrs. Driving Hawk.

We are preparing to do a fundraiser November 30-December 4, 2020 to benefit the Navajo Nation. If you would like to donate hand sanitizer, water, or other living essentials, please contact Mrs. Driving Hawk. 480-224-2954 or

Gila River Advisors- Shelly Aday & Andrew Garcia

Hello GRIC Families!

We will be working with Gila River students in the Chandler Unified School District to advocate for your students' success by offering the following services:

  • Providing individualized guidance on addressing their educational, cultural, and personal needs and identifying resources and information that can satisfy their needs
  • Monitoring students’ academic progress with the addition of providing individualized plans of action as needed
  • Addressing truancy of GRIC students with proactive interventions as needed
  • Ensuring the safety and needs of the students are being met
  • Communicating with teachers, counselors, and other school officials to ensure student’s overall academic success

We look forward to working with your students and we always encourage active parental/guardian involvement in their children's education!


NAHM Resources:
Check Out Our Instagram Here!


Click Here For Our Program's Website!


Contact Us

Indigenous Engagement Specialist - Tia Gramzinski

(480) 224-3739

Gila River Advisor - Shelly Aday

Gila River Advisor - Andrew Garcia

Director of Federal Programs - Monica Romero

(480) 224-3743

Administrative Assistant - Diana Moreno

(480) 224-3741