Students and parents arriving at KW Bergan, Vina Chattin, Browning Elementary and Browning High School will find new people greeting them from the administrators’ offices this year. At the first three, Corrina Guardipee-Hall is the new assistant principal, and Toni Tatsey assumes the principal’s helm at both KW Bergan and Vina Chattin, stepping in for Chuck Pilling who retired at the end of the last school year. And at Browning High School, students will welcome John E. Salois back home as high school principal of the Runnin’ Indians.
With three years’ experience in education at Heart Butte and 21 at Browning Middle School, Toni Tatsey is a graduate of the ILEAD Program at MSU-Bozeman. According to the MSU website, “The purpose of the ILEAD project is to recruit, educate, certify and place American Indian educators into administrative positions in schools with high populations of Native American students.”
Her desire to become principal at KW Bergan and Vina Chattin came, she said, “because my aunts were all principals, and I wanted very humbly to fill their shoes. I’m looking forward to the students because one day they’ll be taking care of us. I love home visits and building relationships. I want to make the environment welcoming, and make it easier for parents and guardians to feel at home with a smile and a handshake.”
KW Bergan serves kindergarten while Vina Chattin educates first grade students. In addition, KW Bergan houses three classrooms for four-year-olds, and both schools host a Blackfeet language immersion classroom.
Corrina Guardipee-Hall sports 25 years’ experience in education, including eight at Browning Middle School and seven as assistant principal at Browning High School and Napi Elementary. She has amassed 15 years in administration and six as superintendent. She was, in fact, Tatsey’s mentor in the ILEAD Program, along with four other students.
Guardipee-Hall left Browning for Alaska in 2008 and returned four years later. “I saw how Browning has developed educationally while I was gone,” she said. “It’s enlightening to see the progress that’s been made, like at the training where people were collaborating to do so much. I’m excited to work with these guys and to be home and share my experiences.”
Finally, John E. Salois recalls having been President at Blackfeet Community College for six years, beginning in 2005, and serving as principal at Browning High School, his 1982 alma mater, for two more years before leaving for Harlem for family matters. He served as principal at the junior high school there, but said, “I always wanted to come back, and I was fortunate to get the position and make my career in Browning. My kids and grandchildren are in the district, and that’s where my heart is.”
Salois said he is impressed with the progress that’s been made at BHS. “I want to build off that success, especially in programs like Graduation Matters, which has been here for four years now.”