WYANDOTTE — Wyandotte Public Schools received a benevolent donation from the Wyandotte Nation on Tuesday: A check for $100,000 to help aid the blow from crippling state budget cuts.
The tribe’s Board of Directors and Chief Billy Friend presented the check to superintendent of Wyandotte Public Schools, Troy Gray and the school board at the Tribal Administration Building.
Friend said the tribe has stayed informed on how the state cuts have impacted local public school systems and wanted to lend a helping hand to its community partner.
"On behalf of the Wyandotte Nation, the Board of Directors, our tribal members, we just want to say how much we appreciate the Wyandotte school system,” Friend said. “It is a part of our community, it’s a part of us, it’s our namesake and we are very proud of the Wyandotte Schools. We appreciate the job Superintendent (Troy) Gray and the school board does. You guys do an excellent job. You are great stewards with the budget.
“This is not something where Troy came to me, nobody solicited this donation, but we read the newspapers, we see the headlines, and we know small schools are taking a big hit lately and we just happen to be in a position to help and that is what we want to do," he added.
Friend said the money is not earmarked for anything specific and the schools can use the money to address any need they may have. Superintendent Gray was very appreciative of the donation, citing the great partnership the schools and the Wyandotte Nation have in the community.
“It’s a blessing and Wyandotte Public Schools is so grateful to have a tribe like Wyandotte Nation,” Gray said. “They’ve always been there. They’re not just a partner to Wyandotte Schools, but they’re also a partner in the community. We consider ourselves one. Times are really tough right now in the state of Oklahoma, throughout, and we have a tough time meeting budgets. This money comes as a blessing for us - not to just buy things that you wish you had, but also to protect what you need. One thing is to make sure that all of your students have what they need in the classroom.”
Gray said the money will be saved for future needs and to help ride out the storm of approaching budget cuts. The potential cuts to education are still not definite, but the rumors are to prepare for at least a 5 percent cut next year.
“We’re going to earmark this because we’re expecting another 5 to 6 percents cuts again come January,” Gray said. “We’re going to make sure to be very frugal with this money and make sure that whatever we need for our students and our staff to protect them is going to be there and this will help fill that hole.”
With Christmas around the corner and questions rising in regard to next year’s budget, Gray said the timing of the donation couldn’t have been better.
“The timing is just unbelievable and it is a Godsend,” Gray said. “We appreciate Wyandotte Nation because we have a lot of question marks and we spend a lot of hours analyzing budget with a lot of concerns. We’re not sure where we’re going to be at, and for them to come down, help us out, be a friend and a partner, this is just an amazing situation for us.”
Friend said the tribe and the board discussed donating the money to the school district about three months ago.
“I was in a meeting and I brought it up to the board,” Friend said. “The board was unanimous in their approval of the donation. We’ve just always worked well (together). The school has helped us out in the past when it comes to busing or other issues and have allowed us to use their facilities. We’ve always had that relationship where we can work together. We realize the budget cuts that are taking place statewide, and we were in a position, financially, to be able to help. We felt like it was a great opportunity for us to give back.”
According to Gray, $100,000 is equivalent to about three teacher salaries. After the check presentation, he announced the donation to his staff, teachers and students with the school’s One Call System.
“I think this lets the teachers now that there is a partner who cares, recognizes what they do, how special they are and the impact they make on kids,” Gray said. “Wyandotte Nation has always been a great friend and stepped up to the plate. We’re blessed. A lot of district don’t have this opportunity. Chief Friend, Mayor Leon Crow and the Wyandotte School District is one community, one family and a lot of places don’t have that.”
Matt Robertson is a Wyandotte history teacher, a parent and a school board member of another local school. He has been a teacher at the district for 11 years, where he teaches juniors and seniors. Robertson has also served on a local school board for about a year and has two children who attend Wyandotte.
“The donation is absolutely awesome because it seems real cut and dry when it comes to school finances if you’re on the outside, but now that I have a year’s worth of experience on the school board, I’m starting to see things from the other side, now,” Robertson said. “As a teacher, you’re always wondering why you don’t have funding for this or funding for that. Now, I see how the budget works and it has changed my perspective. You look up and see $100,000 donated from the tribe, it’s kind of perplexing how much impact that can really have on just giving us some cushion from budget cuts. It’s really a big deal.”
Robertson said he wishes he had more of an opportunity to to say thank you to Friend and the tribe.
“What the tribe does and in cooperating with our school district on a regular basis, it’s been magnificent,” Robertson said. “They take groups of our students on trips all across the country to study Wyandotte Nation History. When you get kids that are getting those opportunities with the tribe and they make sure we appreciate the history of the tribe, as a history teacher, that is huge to me. Then, they up and do this to help school budget. I think it goes a long way to show that we have a really unique relationship here in Wyandotte that most towns don’t have.”
Sheri Compton, a reading specialist at Wyandotte Schools, said they are grateful to have received such a generous donation from the tribe. Her children are Wyandotte alumnus and she has been teaching at the district for 16 years.
Compton currently teaches kindergarten through fifth grade. She said her students were ecstatic about the news.
“They’re very excited and they're wondering how it will impact them,” Compton said. “The administration is not yet sure what the money will be allocated for.”
Despite slashing budget cuts, Compton said the Wyandotte teachers’ morale has remained positive.
“That’s one thing about Wyandotte, our morale has always been good, but it sure was nice getting that support,” Compton said. “It was a very good feeling to know that we are supported by our community.”
Ultimately, Friend said he hopes this donation proves how much the tribe and the community cares about the Wyandotte School District.
“I hope the school realizes that there are people in the community that truly care about the job that they do, that there is work for them and we support what they do each and every day,” Friend said. “We realize that we entrust our greatest asset to them - our children. Hopefully, this is a small step going forward that they know there are others in the community that do support them. If we’re in a position to help in the future, we will help them again. We hope this is something we can continue to do, to give back.”