New RCIS curriculum director brings key skills to the table

posted on May 9, 2012

When it comes to education, Moira Peckskamp can’t stress enough the importance of everyone being on the same page.

“In schools, everybody gets involved and starts doing their own thing… there tends to be little cohesion,” she says. “They need somebody keeping track of when and what things are being done.”

That’s exactly what she plans to do at Red Cloud Indian School, where she has been named the new curriculum director—a position created in part thanks to a $150,000 grant from the John T. Vucurevich Foundation. Peckskamp will guide the school in research, evaluation, development and advocacy for educational programs. The school is already well on its way.

“Everybody really has the right attitude and the right goals, and all they need is get it pulled together so everybody’s going at it in a systematic and organized fashion,” she says.

Before coming to Red Cloud this spring, Peckskamp served as an assistant principal for Murrieta Valley Unified School District in California. She is an enrolled member of the Oglala Sioux tribe, and has ties to Red Cloud because of her late grandmother, a longtime supporter of the school.

“I’m so impressed with the students at Red Cloud, especially the high school students,” she says. “They’re very well prepared. It’s very similar to what I encountered in California. They’re very ready to go out into the world.”

And she has every intention of helping them do that.

“The big challenge is that we need to analyze data and figure out what we’re doing right and where we need to improve, based on what our kids are learning. That’s a big job,” she says.

During the next year, students will take benchmark tests, which will analyze their academic progress every six weeks. Red Cloud will look at the data and see how many of the kids are making it, and then have the hard conversations about why some of the kids might not be.

“A lot of times, the curriculum needs to be changed. Something has to happen. Once they start getting behind, it snowballs, and you can never catch them up,” she notes.

Peckskamp tries to spend as much time as possible in the classroom. She partners with teachers—who play a leading role in ensuring students are not just being taught the crucial concepts, but learning them. She says there will be a lot of teacher training in engagement strategies.

“They’re hungry to hear what I have to say, open to new ideas, and they’re very good teachers,” she says.

This new work, she says, is energizing.

“All the students at Red Cloud are good, wonderful kids and they are destined for success,” she says. “It’s so exciting to be here. There’s so much talent here and so many dedicated teachers and administrators. I feel like I landed in the best possible place.”