By ROBERT JUMPER
ONE FEATHER EDITOR
The second monthly meeting of the Cherokee Central Schools Board of Education was called to order at 4:45 p.m. on Tuesday, April 23 with Chairperson Charlotte Saunooke, Vice-Chairperson Gloria Griffin, Secretary Jennifer Thompson, board members Isaac Long and Karen French-Browning, Superintendent Dr. Michael Murray, Assistant Superintendent Dr. Beverly Payne, School Board Assistant Sunnie Clapsaddle, and Deborah Toineeta, HR Director present. Not in attendance were Board member John Crowe, Tribal Council Representative David Wolfe (Alternate Tribal Council Representative Bo Crowe), and Finance Director Howard Wahnetah. This meeting is typically held on the third Monday of the month, and the meeting date was changed due to Spring Break.
Jennifer Thompson led the meeting in prayer and then minutes from the April 4 meeting were reviewed and approved by the Board.
The Board then heard guest presentations beginning with Kaye McConnell, who presented information on a “WNC 7 County Drug Solutions Summit” to be held Aug. 16 in Bryson City at the First Baptist Church. She mentioned several public officials for the seven western-most counties of North Carolina have committed to attend including all seven county sheriffs. She advised the Board that North Carolina State Senator Jim Davis has stated support for the summit. The meeting, according to McConnell, will be to strategize.
According to materials for her organization, RENEW Bryson City, “The hope is that elected officials look to neighboring governments and use regional cooperation to coordinate possible solutions and tactics, along with means of collective funding.”
Next to address the Board was Principal Chief Richard G. Sneed. He first discussed the possibility of the World Changers returning to do work on the Qualla Boundary. World Changers, according to materials provided by Chief Sneed, provides labor “for agencies that are already at work in a community. World Changers seeks to be more than Christians helping other Christians, but rather, unashamed of our identity, we want to help meet people in need, regardless of their identity.”
Chief Sneed indicated that the organization provides between $30,000 and $60,000 worth of labor each year that they have worked on the Boundary. World Changers has not been on the Boundary for approximately five years. They would like to return. Previously, the group would lodge at the old Cherokee high school, but since it has been demolished, they need a new place to lodge while they are in Cherokee to provide the labor. Chief Sneed came to make a preliminary inquiry on behalf of World Changers to see if the Board would be interested in allowing World Changers to lodge at Cherokee Central Schools during the week of the work in 2020. The Board approved to enter preliminary discussions with World Changers.
Chief Sneed went on to discuss the “Go Global” scholarship and apparent denial of funding for Cherokee Central Schools. He explained that he is looking into their processes and coming up with solutions for the issue. Lastly, he wanted to express his support for hiring a position for a “personal finance course.” He requested a “soft number” for what the salary would be for the position. Deborah Toinetta referred to a spreadsheet and quoted $48,000 plus benefits. Chief Sneed said he would go to Tribal Council and advocate for the position when Cherokee Central Schools is ready to present it. “It floors me that personal finance and just the basics of finance isn’t mandatory across the country, but I think we should certainly be leading the way on that. I am grateful to this Board for implementing the course as a graduation requirement, and I will go before Council and ask for the funding specifically to fund this position.”
At the request of a board member, Chief Sneed committed to creating a plan to help alleviate any hardships that discretionary administrative leave may cause for child care needs of the Cherokee Central Schools staff.
There were two items on the Consent Agenda, which were quickly approved. One was to accept Brooke Coggins to fill the Student Support Services Counselor position. The other was to take Peggy Dehart to fill the full-time Custodian position.
In old business, a letter requesting a reconsideration of a previous Board action denying a fee waiver for the breaking of a teaching contract had been submitted to the Board. This contract was for the 2018-19 school year. In the previous vote, the Board had voted along with school policy regarding the situation. The Board voted for and went into closed session to discuss the issue. Upon return to open meeting, they voted to let their previous decision to deny the fee waiver stand.
The New Business portion of the meeting began in another closed session with the members of the Cherokee Boys Club Board of Directors. Chairperson Charlotte Saunooke opened the discussion, stating, “Whenever I went to the Boy’s Club Board of Directors meeting on Wednesday, there was a brief discussion on the most recent audit that was performed and the Boy’s Club Board of Directors had some concerns and wanted basically to talk with the School Board about that audit. Do we need to go into closed on this?”
Dr. Murray responded, “The report accompanies the document, and there are names mentioned in it that could come out in the discussion. I would feel better about going into closed session if we are going to get into that detail.”
The Chairperson of the Cherokee Boys Club Board then commented, “We want to make sure that we make everything right. Accountability is our number one thing. We have to make sure we hold everyone accountable. So I think we should go into closed session and let it all out.”
At that, the School Board voted to go into closed session. The session lasted approximately one hour. The Cherokee Boys Club Board left the meeting room after about 45 minutes; then the School Board continued in closed session for another approximately 15 minutes. At the end of the closed session, there was no report from the Board as to discussion, findings, or determinations based on the closed session. No further information is publicly available.
Brett Robertson presented information on a new security gate system for Cherokee Central Schools. Robertson, along with Dr. Murray, shared flyers for the “Strong Arm Park Parking Barrier Arm Operator”, a traffic control system to help campus security teams control the flow of vehicles in and out of the school grounds. This was an introductory presentation to show the Board a possibility for school safety. The cost for the system ranged from potentially $72,000 to $92,000, which Dr. Murray indicated that the school would seek grants to fund. Robertson recommended this to make the campus more secure.
Sunnie Clapsaddle requested that the Board confirm the date, plans, and agenda for the end of year luncheon for staff. There was brief discussion and approval of the luncheon.
The Board adjourned after confirming the next meeting date of Monday, May 6.