By ROBERT JUMPER
ONE FEATHER EDITOR
The Tuesday, Jan. 22 meeting of the Cherokee Central Schools School Board included members of the Cherokee Boys Club (CBC) Board of Directors and Greg Owle, Cherokee Boys Club executive director. The two entities have agreed to meet on a quarterly basis to ensure proper communication and workflow, according to School Board Chairwoman Charlotte Saunooke.
School officials attending this meeting included: School Board members Charlotte Saunooke, Gloria Griffin, Jennifer Thompson, Clara French Browning, and Isaac Long. School Board member John D. Crowe was absent from the meeting. Wolftown Rep. Bo Crowe was in attendance, but Vice Chairman of Tribal Council David Wolfe was not in attendance. School officials attending were: Superintendent Michael Murray, Assistant Superintendent Beverly Payne, Financial Director Howard Wahnetah, and Human Resources Director Deborah Toineeta.
Dr. Murray opened the meeting with prayer.
Ashford Smith, Secretary of the CBC Board and the organization’s interim finance director, and Howard Wahnetah reported on the financial status of the school system. Overall, according to their statements, spending is “on track” with what would be expected at this point in the school’s fiscal year.
Smith stated, “Overall, very good job. This is the best picture we are going to get all year until the end of the year. It is easy to see the numbers. About half your budget should be spent.”
He said in most lines of spending, the lines were near or at the 50 percent level. “I feel pretty good about where we are at. You could tell where the accountability has shown forth throughout the numbers.”
Smith also studied, at the request of Chairwoman Saunooke, revenue projections and attempted to forecast what the budgets for the next three to five years should look like and what kind of financial planning needs to take place. He commented that, in his discussions with local financial advisors, that there is a consensus that “we will have a recession within the next two years.”
He indicated that preparation needs to begin now for that possibility. Chairwoman Saunooke urged the Board and school administration to think about and prepare for a more modest income and look for ways to conserve funds and reduce spending while not compromising student needs. Wahnetah commented that Central Office has already started looking at ways to reduce and save and had advised other operational areas to consider doing so.
Cherokee Boys Club Board of Directors members in attendance included: President Benny Graves, Vice President Tara Reed, Secretary Ashford Smith, Board members Doris Johnson and June Wolfe, and Tribal Council Representative (Big Cove) Perry Shell.
Superintendent Murray praised CBC for what he said was an “improved relationship.” He specifically thanked June Wolfe’s strategic coordination of busing the children during recent inclement weather. Murray also complimented Owle for his commitment toward working with the school to “keep the kids safe.” Leadership from both CBC and School Board said that their relationship is “on the right track.”
Rep. Shell stated, “I am glad to see things are going well. I want to see it keep going and that we look at more collaboration.”
There was some discussion regarding the Rough Branch area and difficulties with the unpaved road. Both Tribal Council representatives Shell and Crowe were asked to see if anything could be done to expedite paving in that area. Rep. Crowe explained that the Department of Transportation currently contracts out the paving work, so a contractor is ultimately responsible for the execution of paving projects. Paving season is done until warmer weather (cold weather halts asphalt production).
Chairwoman Saunooke stated that Soco Mountain (Hwy 19) needed maintenance and repair badly -removal of threatening trees and limbs, and ditches and drains cleared. Rep. Crowe advised that the NCDOT has taken more control over the Soco Road. Cherokee DOT now cannot go work in that area without going through the state for permission.
Next on the agenda was a presentation and request for a donation from the Middle School BETA Club. The Beta Club is a national organization with the goal of “promoting the ideals of academic achievement, character, service, and leadership among elementary and secondary school students.” The request specified replenishing funds that were being spent on the 2019 Beta Club Convention. Eight CCS students will be participating. Beta Club had been successful in a fundraising effort and gave a detailed breakdown of income and spending. The School Board recommended and approved a $500 donation to the Beta Club which is the limit allowed per request.
Superintendent Murray distributed copies of the Booster Club’s “tri-annual financial update.” No Booster Club representative was available for the meeting. One Feather did not receive the handout.
The Board discussed individual recognitions for service to the school community.
The Board also went into closed session for approximately ten minutes to discuss personnel issues that were on the agenda. They voted and approved the filling of a custodial and an administrative position. The Superintendent also presented an “enrollment request” that was discussed during closed session. The Board voted and approved this action as well. One Board member abstained due to a conflict of interest.
The School Board voted to have a joint School Board meeting with Swain County School Board on March 18 at 5 p.m. in Cherokee. This meeting is held annually to discuss funding agreements and collaboration.
At the direction of the Board, the administration has been cutting monies spent on advertising. Superintendent Murray suggested that the Board retain one graduation billboard at the cost of $385 monthly from Allison’s Outdoor. He said that is essential recognition of achievement by the students and should continue. The Board agreed and approved the funding of the graduation billboard. Allison’s will donate the cost of creating and installing the billboard; the school will be responsible for monthly rental.
The Board approved an early resignation waiver request presented by Deb Toinetta. No other information was provided on this issue.
Assistant Superintendent Payne advised the Board that BIE has “tapped” the Cherokee Central Schools to participate in the National Assessment of Education Progress for grades 4 and 8. The assessment is for reading and math. It is scheduled to take place on March 5 and 8. While CCS will not get school-specific information, there will be a report in aggregate provided to the school.
Wahnetah also provided his quarterly report regarding operations of the finance department. The report included that his staff would be doing MUNIS (accounting software) training with CBC, as well as EBCI budget training.
The next School Board meeting is scheduled for Monday, Feb. 4.