- Associated Press - Thursday, October 30, 2014

PHILADELPHIA, Miss. (AP) - U.S. Secretary of the Interior Sally Jewell has praise for the Choctaw tribal schools in Mississippi.

Jewell visited the school system run by the Mississippi Band of Choctaw Indians on Wednesday.

Jewell oversees education for all tribal schools in the nation.

“We have a challenge with Indian education across the country. We are under-performing compared to other students,” Jewell told WTOK-TV in Meridian (https://bit.ly/1ziByNw ) during the tour.

Jewell said much of the success of the Choctaw School System can be attributed to the tribe’s hands-on approach, with the chief and tribal council virtually serving as the school board.

“In many other communities we don’t see that. We don’t have engagement between tribal leaders and the schools,” said Jewell. “Sometimes we run the schools. We run them out of Albuquerque, New Mexico or Washington D.C., and the schools may be all the way across the country.”

With the only culinary arts program for students and a competitive solar car contest, which students compete on an international basis, Jewell said the Choctaw education model is now being examined by other tribal schools nationwide.

“We just did grants for a number of schools to learn about these models, to see if they want to mirror the kinds of things that are going on,” Jewell said.

Choctaw Chief Phyliss Anderson said while there are some advanced programs, the school system has need for expansion and funding for buildings renovation and repair.

“And it takes funding for that. We look forward to working with the federal government to see what we can do,” Anderson said.

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Information from: WTOK-TV, https://www.wtok.com

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