Good morning, CharterFolk.
Today I am delighted to recognize Michelle Parada, the Co-Founder and Lead Teacher of All Tribes American Indian Charter School in Northern San Diego County, as CharterFolk Extraordinaire.
I got to know Michelle during my third year at CCSA. By that point, I had already made it to a couple hundred charter schools, but I had never experienced a school visit like the one that Michelle hosted me to at All Tribes. It wasn’t just observing instruction in a class or two. It was a nearly day-long tour of the entire reservation, starting of course with deep discussion regarding the culturally specific instruction the school was offering from the earliest grades …
… all the way through early adult years.
After hours introducing me to nearly everyone connected to the school, Michelle drove me around to see the homes of the students and employees of the school and gave me a history lesson about public education and the reservation. Spending time with Michelle, I came away with the feeling there couldn’t possibly be anyone in the world who knows more about or cares more about the young people living on the Rincon Indian Reservation.
I also came to understand more deeply the circumstances that gave birth to the school – the fact that Michelle’s community was simply not being served well by its nearby school district, and after years of pushing for change, the All Tribes founders finally took matters into their own hands. In the process, they ended up making a charter school that is as deeply connected to its community as any I am aware of.
The school’s early years were challenged by a severe lack of resources. When I first visited, the school was still housed in barely adequate temporaries, but Michelle was determined and excited. After ten years of trying to get the funding needed to make a permanent campus, she thought she might have found the federal grant she would need to construct a school building. A few years later when I visited for the second time, the building was nearly complete and they were just beginning to move in.
Over the years, Michelle and All Tribes became deeply involved in advocacy matters affecting charter schools more broadly. Suffice it to say that when All Tribes and other American Indian groups weigh in on a matter before the legislature, policy makers pay attention. Michelle has proven herself to be a unique leader able to coalesce people from many different backgrounds behind initiatives that are changing the way American Indian kids are being educated in California and beyond.
It all starts with a depth of caring for kids at a level that is just not easy for many to fathom. I hope you’ll take a couple of minutes to hear how Michelle and her partner and school co-founder Mary Donahue, in addition to having been the driving forces behind All Tribes, have over the years taken into their homes 27 kids from the foster care system.
It’s just another stunning example of Michelle’s level of commitment, which has been a driving force helping achieve breakthroughs in education at All Tribes, and inspiring many other CharterFolk to do even more for the kids and communities we serve. It’s yet another reason why I couldn’t be happier than to recognize Michelle Parada here as a CharterFolk Extraordinaire.