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Tribe hands St. Stephens to Bureau of Indian Education as staffing concerns arise

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Taylar Stagner
Outside St. Stephens schools on the Wind River Reservation summer 2022.

St. Stephen School in Arapahoe is now under the supervision of the Bureau of Indian Education (BIE). The Northern Arapaho tribe had handled day to day operations, but due to allegations of sexual misconduct, nepotism, and financial fraud by former staff, the Wind River Intertribal Council voted to approve the transition to federal control. This resulted in multiple employees getting fired and requiring all staff to reapply for their positions. The school is still slated to be open in the Fall.

Stephen Fast Horse is on the Northern Arapaho Business Council and he is an acting temporary school board member at St. Stephens. He said staffing might be an issue.

“Staffing was a major eye opener for everybody because again, part of the retrocession requires that all the positions be advertised and so that kind of threw a lot of the current staff for loop. They felt as if they had lost their jobs,” he said.

Ben Ridgley, chairman of the temporary school board, said staff was only informed of having to reapply for their jobs the week school got out, and many looked elsewhere.

“And there's a lot of them already applied for different positions in other schools. [It's] going to be hard for the upcoming school year,” he said

In a letter to parents and guardians of St. Stephens, Pine Ridge Education Program Center’s Lora Baucher said that school would start September 19th. Colletta Wilson is named Acting Principal and Superintendent until those positions are filled.

Another community meeting is scheduled for July 26th at 5pm at the elementary cafeteria and will be available on Zoom. Some St. Stephens positions are available here.

Taylar Dawn Stagner is a central Wyoming rural and tribal reporter for Wyoming Public Radio. She has degrees in American Studies, a discipline that interrogates the history and culture of America. She was a Native American Journalist Association Fellow in 2019, and won an Edward R. Murrow Award for her Modern West podcast episode about drag queens in rural spaces in 2021. Stagner is Arapaho and Shoshone.
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