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Navajo Leaders Seek Ouster of Superintendent

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Angered by teacher and staff layoffs, Navajo Indian leaders are attempting to invoke a 122-year-old treaty to have the school superintendent of Tuba City, Ariz., removed from the reservation where the school district is located.

Robert Yazzi, president of the Coalition of Parents for Education, said the citizens' group plans to ask the tribal leadership to bar Joseph K. Ball, the white superintendent of Tuba City Unified School District No. 15, from the Navajo Reservation.

Mr. Yazzi said that Mr. Ball has harmed the Native American population with his policies and that, under procedures outlined in the Navajo tribal code, the tribal leadership can exclude a person from the reservation for presenting "a danger to life or property."

Such powers were accorded the tribe by the 1868 Treaty Between the United States of America and the Navajo Tribe of Indians.

Three of the four "chapter houses"--or local governing units--within the district have voted overwhelmingly to remove Mr. Ball from the reservation, which includes Tuba City and much of surrounding northeast Arizona, as well as parts of Colorado, Utah, and New Mexico.

If the fourth chapter house votes to seek Mr. Ball's removal, the tribal leadership will decide whether to exclude him from the reservation.

The citizens' group decided to seek Mr. Ball's ouster after the school board in the 2,600-student district decided last month to lay off 171 people as part of a reorganization effort.

The reorganization was necessary, the board said, because the district's enrollment is shrinking and because money is needed for new buildings.

The parents' group has also gathered more than twice the number of signatures needed to force a recall election of the district's five-member school board.

Although all the board members are Native Americans, the board has come under fire for the layoffs and for allegedly making too many decisions during executive sessions.

Mr. Ball described the citizens' group's attempt to remove him from the reservation as inappropriate because "there has been no wrongdoing on my part, no legal violation."

He said the layoffs were necessary in the wake of a decision last summer to divide Tuba City High School, one of four schools in the district, into two schools.

One of the two resulting schools is now operated by the federal Bureau of Indian Affairs--a move that resulted in the loss of 410 students and $947,000 in state funding.

To be laid off at the end of the school year are two administrators; 47 Indian and non-Indian certified teachers; and all of the district's 122 Indian non-certified aides.

Fifty of the aides will be brought back next year, Mr. Ball said.

Ruth H. Schmitt, president of the Tuba City Unified Education Association, said the district's loss of funding does not justify the disproportionately high number of layoffs planned.

"The American Indian people who are employed by the school district are indigenous to this community," she said. "There is nowhere else for them to get employment of this kind."

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