For 16 days in November, students at Chief Paul Memorial School in Kipnuk stayed home from school and studied remotely. But on Nov. 18, in-person learning resumed as teachers returned to Kipnuk.
The village traditional tribal council formally banished the school’s longtime principal at the end of October. Principal LaDorothy Lightfoot and several teachers left with her on planes chartered by the Lower Kuskokwim School District. It’s unclear how many of those teachers have returned. There appear to be about 200 enrolled students in the school, where Lightfoot had been for several years.
Chief Paul Memorial School is not a high-performing school. The building, however, is newly constructed in 2014, as one of the rural schools that were part of the Kasayulie v. Alaska settlement that provided new schools across rural Alaska, where many schools were substandard and in places with no tax base to pay for school construction.
Among all grades at the Chief Paul, a K-12 school, fewer than 5% of the students scored “advanced or proficient” in English Language Arts, and fewer than 5% scored “advanced or proficient” in Math. 95% of the students scored “approaching proficiency/needs support” in these core areas on the Alaska System of Academic Readiness (AKSTAR) tests, which are given to students statewide. The graduation rate, however, is 100%.
Lightfoot is still listed as the site administrator for the Chief Paul Memorial School, which is part of the Lower Kuskokwim School District, but she is no longer in the village and the district is not disclosing if she is still on payroll. After being open just four days for in-person classes this month, the school is closed for the long Thanksgiving holiday weekend, but classes are expected to resume on Monday.