Marsha Leno and her husband Ryan live within the Laguna-Acoma reservation with their five children, four of whom are enrolled in Cibola-Grants County Schools.
As tribal members of Zia Pueblo, Marsha’s children need an education that is sensitive to their traditions, tribal affiliation, and cultural needs. But the public middle and elementary schools her children attend lack the culturally relevant curriculum that would help her children thrive. Having a teacher that understands their culture is critical to their educational success, but unfortunately Native American teachers are scarce at each of the children’s schools. Although Marsha feels the teachers are generally good, they don’t understand the unique Pueblo traditions and are unable to make learning culturally relevant to her children.
Like many families in the district, Marsha and the children speak both Keres and English at home. Her children have struggled in English Language Arts and other courses that require writing. Unfortunately, the district lacks an adequate bilingual and English-language learner program for Native American students.
The schools also lack the critical supplies students need in order to learn. There aren’t enough textbooks to go around, so children are unable to bring textbooks home and are forced to share among classmates. As an inadequate substitute, they are given worksheets that don’t contain all the information they need to complete their homework.
Moreover, because of a lack of transportation services, her children can’t access certain educational programs and services outside of school hours, including before and after-school tutoring, because school buses are not regularly made available for that purpose.
Marsha has expressed concern about these problems to her children’s school administrators. She has been told, however, that the District lacks adequate funding from the state to fully address these issues.
The Lenos are just one of countless families across New Mexico who are struggling to ensure that their children receive the education to which they are entitled.