By JONAH LOSSIAH
ONE FEATHER STAFF
The Monday, July 22 meeting of the Cherokee Central Schools (CCS) Board of Education was called to order at 4:30 p.m. with Chairperson Charlotte Saunooke; Secretary Jennifer Thompson; board members Isaac Long, Karen French-Browning, and John Crowe; Superintendent Dr. Michael Murray; Assistant Superintendent Dr. Beverly Payne; CCS Finance Director Howard Wahnetah; School Board Assistant Sunnie Clapsaddle; HR Director Heather Driver; Tribal Council Representative David Wolfe; and Tribal Council Alternate Representative Bo Crowe present. Vice Chairperson Gloria Griffin was the only absentee for the meeting.
Opening prayer was led by Jennifer Thompson and the minutes from the June 17 meeting were approved.
Then, the agenda for the current meeting was approved.
The primary topic of discussion had to do with the pay of CCS Teachers. Guests Ashford Smith and William Lowe worked with Howard Wahnetah to present a CCS financial update and pay scale presentation.
In this presentation, Wahnetah showed how CCS’s teacher salaries compare to the North Carolina and national averages. According to the Wahnetah, the average salary for a CCS teacher rests at $49,796, while the state average is $53,975.
There was a long discussion between Wahnetah, the board and Superintendent Murray regarding ways CCS is attempting to “keep pace with the state.” Murray consistently brought forth the idea of ‘selling Cherokee’ to prospective teachers. He mentioned benefits such as class size and the Cherokee culture, but that they need the salaries and adjustments to be closer for the basics of the numbers.
They also discussed North Carolina’s challenges in competing financially with other states as well. The presentation continued to show that the national average for teacher pay is $60,477. When compared to the rest of America, 45 states have higher average salaries than CCS.
One way CCS is trying to stay competitive with North Carolina rates is by following their lead when it comes to salary adjustments and raises for teachers. The issue with this is that the state still does not have a solidified rate. A few options are on the table, though a 3.5% increase for NC teachers for each of the next two years was shot down by Governor Cooper. Cooper has a proposal that would increase teacher pay 9 percent over the next two years.
The current budgeted proposal for CCS has teachers receiving a 5% raise, and teachers’ assistants a 2.5% raise. It was also decided by the board in this meeting that first-year teachers would also receive these increases, establishing them as ‘salary adjustments’ instead of raises.
There will be a work session with Tribal Council to discuss the CCS budget on Wednesday, July 24 at 1 p.m.
The other guest for the meeting was Whitney Reed, who was brought in to clarify aspects of the 10-year pension that has been implemented. What needed clearing up was who exactly was to be under the 10-year structure, and who was still under the 5-year structure. Reed said that anybody hired after January 1, 2019, would be under the new 10-year system unless they were previously employed by CCS. All those hired before that date, at any point, would be under the old system.
After hearing out its guests, the board moved to review the consent agenda. Three of the 21 scheduled resolutions were pulled, two by request of the administration and one for further discussion.
The board approved the remaining resolutions and went into a closed session to discuss personnel and current state of CCS expansion project.
After the closed session, the board voted on resolution 20-009, the item that was pulled for discussion. It was passed 4-1, with John Crowe voting against it. It approved Curtis Betz to fill the Full-Time Security Monitor position pending background checks and testing.
The board then moved into new business, starting with reviewing the 2019-20 CCS Handbooks. These were approved.
Next, the board reviewed and passed updates to the following job descriptions: Online Education & Career Development Facilitator, Custodial Crew Leader, High School Nurse.
The last piece of business in open session was to approve another SPED teacher. It was a position of need that did not get filled in time to be a resolution. It was passed 3-1, with John Crowe voting against and Karen French-Browning abstaining.
After this, Charlotte Saunooke called another closed session, this time excusing all but the voting members of the board.
The next CCS Board meeting will take place Monday, Aug. 5 at 4:30.