Saturday, July 05, 2008

District Director of Desegregation/Homebound Programs retires

The director of Duluth Public School’s Desegregation and Homebound programs is retiring his position after almost 20 years of service.

During his tenure, George Himango helped build a department that plays an important role in providing guidance and leadership in the development of programs to encourage cross-cultural respect and understanding.

Over the years, Himango worked with community leaders and school and district administrators to develop a desegregation program and other opportunities such as: cultural centers and classroom curriculum; student leadership programs; magnet schools; internal scholarships for staff of color and role models for students of color; problem solving and conflict resolution; paid tutors to support academically at-risk students, and multicultural activities.

“I was raised on the Fond du Lac Reservation by my grandparents. It’s our cultural tradition to emphasize the similarities in our human relationships, not the differences,” said Himango. We are all of the same creation. We are all here together.”

Community activist and current chairperson of the school district’s Desegregation/Integration Advisory Committee (DIAC), Sharon Witherspoon, calls Himango a drum major for education. “I’ve found him to be an expressive and passionate person when it comes to our children and their educational experience. He goes beyond regular duty to build awareness, celebrate diversity, and promote actions toward building a better future.”

Portia Johnson, former chairperson of the DIAC, credits Himango for serving as a strong liaison between the school district and the council, providing information and guidance, and creating an atmosphere of openness and thoughtfulness.

“We’re where we are today because of George, his insight, his ability to see things a little differently than the rest of us. He’s well liked, well respected. He’s a peacemaker, he really is.” Johnson added “He’s always been there, keeping staff of color in the school district, seeking out programs to help students of color. He’s still pushing, always pushing, for programs to help try to close that achievement gap.”
"George is a leader that I have relied on heavily for wisdom and insight,” says Keith Dixon, Ph.D., superintendent of Duluth Public Schools. “I value his judgment and thoughtfulness. He has made a real difference in the district for students, staff and for all our leadership.
Himango’s award-winning career includes extensive experience at the head of other organizations, including Director of MEECHA Inc. Development Associates, accomplishing development programs for eight tribal governments. He also served as Executive Director and Director of Special Projects for the Fond du Lac Indian Reservation.

Ferdinand Martineau, Jr., secretary treasurer of the Fond du Lac Band of Lake Superior Chippewa said, “He’s a visionary. George set up many of the policies and procedures we use today when he served the reservation.”

As a student at the University of Minnesota – Duluth, Himango worked with other students and staff to establish the American Indian and Minority Project. They helped create the American Indian Studies Academic program, and organized the Anishinabe Club for students, and Himango served as its first president.

Himango earned a Bachelor of Arts, and a Master of Arts in Educational Administration from UMD. For several years, he served as Executive Director of Mental Health for the university.
“George has that intangible ability to walk in both worlds,” says Bonnie Wallace, who has known Himango for over 40 years. “He walks comfortably in the Native American world, and he can put on that suit and tie and work with school administration, work in the corporate world. He’s comfortable in his own skin; people have a lot of respect for him. He was a role model for me, and continues to be a role model for others.”

Himango’s many honors include the Award of Gratitude for Outstanding Performance from the Duluth American Indian Community, Bulldog Leadership Award from UMD, Outstanding Educational Program of the Year from the Minnesota Education Association, and Outstanding Indian Leaders Award from the College of St. Scholastica.

Himango is a skilled grant writer. He helped write millions of dollars in grants to support educational and cultural programs, including desegregation, conflict resolution, and language laboratories.

He’s also written grants to provide funding for UMD and the Fond du Lac Reservation, among other organizations. He’s made professional presentations at local, state and national conferences.

He served on Duluth’s Greater Downtown Business Council, Duluth Chamber of Commerce, and was founder, charter member and incorporator of Ni-Mi-Win, Inc. a non-profit group which organized pow wows. He was appointed by the Mayor of Duluth to the board of directors for Duluth New Business Corporation and served on the Teacher Training Task Force at the College of St. Scholastica.

This year, he also serves on the board of directors for FinnFest.
Himango is an enrolled member of the Fond du Lac Reservation, Minnesota Chippewa Tribe. He is a decorated United States Navy veteran serving in the Vietnam War.
He is an accomplished fisherman and hunter, one of two Minnesota men to shoot a white tail deer over 400 pounds. He’s also a former musher and long time participant in the sport of sled dog racing.