The World Education STOCK

COOS COUNTY — To mark the first day of a new school year, Oregon Deputy Superintendent of Public Instruction is visiting Coos County.

Salam Noor is celebrating the first day of school by visiting two elementary schools on Wednesday, Sept. 6, according to a press release from Oregon Department of Education.

“Both Madison Elementary in Coos Bay and North Bay Elementary in North Bend are participating in the Tribal Attendance Pilot Project (TAPP) which aims to improve attendance at schools that serve American Indian/Alaskan Native students,” the release said.

Noor is meeting with TAPP representatives at each district, as well as principals and superintendents. September is Attendance Awareness Month, “so Dr. Noor will highlight this important issue at each event.”

The World reported when the initial $150,000 TAPP grant was awarded to both school districts last April. The districts worked with the Confederated Tribes of Coos, Lower Umpqua and Siuslaw Indians and the Coquille Indian Tribe on developing a tribal grant. The $150,000 grant idea came from an Oregon Department of Education committee after data showed regular and significant attendance problems for Native American students.

“We don't know why this is a problem,” said Lisa DeSalvio, Coos Bay School District's special program director in an interview last year. “That's why there is a grant to fix it. It's there to find out why this has been happening.”

The grant pays for a full-time tribal attendance advocate who will work with families and parents who are struggling to get their kids to school.

Angela Bowen, education director for the Confederated Tribes, said in a previous interview she sees this position in the district as helping all of the students, not just Native American kids.

“This tribal attendance advocate is going to track student attendance,” she said, “and allow districts and tribes to work with students and families to better improve attendance in schools. As for why there is such bad attendance, I think it is the same reason that all students have trouble attending school. Some families are in need of extra support and we hope that is what this grant will provide.”

Coos Bay Indian Education Coordinator, Bridget Wheeler, said education has been a top priority with the tribes since their restoration.

“For the first time, collaborative efforts are being undertaken to help improve attendance for local Native American students,” the release said.

Reporter Jillian Ward can be reached at 541-269-1222, ext. 235, or by email at Follow her on Twitter: @JE_Wardwriter.