“We want this to be a school for everyone. When I say everyone, I mean everyone.” – Director of the Sovereign School Project Phil Gover
School does not want students to ‘slip through the cracks’
OKLAHOMA CITY — Director of the Sovereign Schools Project Phil Gover said the inspiration for an institution of learning began when he made a trip in 2009, to Albuquerque, New Mexico.
“I was looking for talented Native kids to bring to New Hampshire,” Gover said.
What he walked into was the Native American Community Academy, which is a non-profit school that serves the Native American community, he was amazed at what he saw.
“When I first walked into NACA, I have never seen a school like that before,” he said. “I grew up on the rez (reservation) but my reservation was more urban. I lived in Reno, Nevada.”
He believes a lot of Native people obscure who they are in public places, but at NACA it was quiet the opposite.
“I felt like I could be who I am,” Gover said.
Fast forward a few years later when Gover moved to Oklahoma City. He thought only a few places in the country could do what NACA did. He believes OKC is one of them.
“You need a critical mass of families, kids, with an indigenous identity and pull off what they pulled off,” he said.
Gover said when he moved to ‘The City,’ he had the idea of a Sovereign Community School in the back of his mind even though he was not working in the education system.
“The idea began to take shape about a year and a half ago,” he said.
When he spoke with the Native American community about what they would like for an institution of learning, a majority of the families spoke out about the children ‘slipping through the cracks.’
“As they go through high school, more and more families are dropping out of the system,” Gover said. “Native students in Oklahoma City public schools have the lowest graduation rate of any demographic group.”
Gover feels that the Native families had a sense of their children being lost in the school system and he feels that has to change.
“That idea is what propelled us forward,” he said.
Gover said SCS is planning what grades they want to begin with for their school.
“We are going to start sixth grade and ninth grade at the same time,” he said. “Then we are going to add a sixth and ninth grade for the first three years.”
He said in the fourth year they will add a sixth grade from then.
“In four years, we will get to a fully realized sixth through 12th (grade) middle and high school,” Gover said. “Serving over 500 kids in Oklahoma City.”
Because of the tribal diversity that makes up OKC, Gover said there will be no way they can be with only one tribe.
“We want this to be a school for everyone,” he said. “When I say everyone, I mean everyone.”
He said if non-Native people were to go this school they would get a lot out of the philosophy, curriculum and education.
“This is a public charter school,” Gover said. “This will be open to everyone anyway. Anyone can send their kid here if we have space to admit them.”
As a public charter school, which SCS will be if approved, the school would receive funding from the state and federal government, but will still be looking for donations and funding from private foundations.
“As a charter school, we will have to do some fundraising and apply for money from private foundations, tribes and tribal education programs,” Gover said.
Gover said charter schools are actually less funded than a traditional school.
SCS submitted their application for the school in October 2017. Gover said the SCS asked for an extension to February 12 so the OKC school board will have the application and vote on the charter school.