August 19 School Board Meeting highlights

by Aug 20, 2019NEWS ka-no-he-da





The Cherokee Central Schools (CCS) Board of Education met in its regular bi-weekly session on Monday, Aug. 19, at 4:45 p.m. in the CCS Administrative Boardroom. Present for the meeting were Chairperson Charlotte Saunooke; Vice-Chairperson Gloria Griffin; Secretary Jennifer Thompson; board members Isaac Long, Karen French-Browning, and John Crowe (who was not there for the start of the meeting-coming in at 5:07 p.m.). Also in attendance were Dr. Michael Murray, Superintendent of CCS; Dr. Beverly Payne, Assistant Superintendent of CCS; Sunnie Clapsaddle, School Board Assistant; Heather Driver, Human Resources (HR) Director; and John Henning Jr., an attorney representing the Board of Education. 

Those not present for the meeting included Tribal Council Vice Chairman David Wolfe and Wolftown Rep. Bo Crowe, and Howard Wahnetah, CCS Financial Director.

Chairperson Saunooke called the meeting to order. 

Clapsaddle conducted a roll call, Dr. Murray provided an opening prayer. Chairperson Saunooke called for and received approval from the Board to accept the previous meeting’s minutes and the night’s agenda. 

A scheduled financial update was removed from the guest agenda and replaced by a presentation on the possibility of CCS hosting the Special Olympics. 

Dr. Lisa Younce presented the Special Olympics proposal. As part of her presentation, Dr. Younce announced that they are ready to start construction on the Joey Parker Playground. With $47,000 of the estimated $52,000 needed for the project, Dr. Younce contacted the playground company with her amount to see what could be done to get the project rolling. After reducing the project by one piece of playground equipment, the playground has the green light to begin construction. Dr. Younce indicated that the building would start as soon as possible.

“Cherokee is slated to host the Special Olympics for the next two years,” said Dr. Younce. The Parks and Recreation Department would like to host these events on the CCS campus, which will be held in spring. Dr. Murray said he feels that being able to host the games would be a “huge honor.” The Board will have further discussion concerning the proposed use of the school for the Special Olympics as it gets closer to the spring. 

Dr. Younce also announced a desire for CCS to become a “Unified Champion School District.” 

“What that means for us is that we would have young athletes, preparing them to move through the Special Olympics; Pre-K to 2nd grade; they would be called the Young Athletes,” she said.  “What that does for our physical education teachers is provide them training, curriculum and free equipment. And third through twelfth grade is called Unified Sports. And, so they would start with bocce, basketball, and bowling. And, so the three components to that are students with and without disabilities would play on the same team. There would be Special Olympics ambassadors at each school, one special ed student and one general education student. And, then there would be an entire school engagement component which actually goes into the non-bullying, as well as our Sacred Path activities. And, if we decide to host the Special Olympics, that would be our total school engagement piece as well.” 

She indicated that this idea has been presented to school administration and staff, and they seem “excited” about it. 

No vote or action was taken on the guest presentation. 

There were nine items on the Consent Agenda, and all were approved unanimously with no discussion by the Board. The Consent Agenda items were: Sally Durant to fill the part-time Cherokee Language Instructor position; Yona Wade to serve as a volunteer for the Cherokee High School Girls Golf Program, Maggie Jackson to serve as a volunteer for the Junior Varsity Volleyball Program; Timiyah Brown to serve as a volunteer for Cherokee Central Schools and she was also approved for a substitute teacher position; two salary increases and one contract upgrade. The Board also approved eliminating “Policy 3565/8307 Title I Program Comparability of Services” from the CCS Policy Manual. 

Old business items were: Caroline Hyatt to fill a CHS (Cherokee High School) Varsity Girls Basketball Assistant Coach position; Josh Griffith to fill a CHS Varsity Boys Basketball position; and Virginia Gardener as a CHS Varsity Girls Basketball Assistant Coach and CHS JV (Junior Varsity) Girls Basketball Head Coach. They had been placed on hold from a previous session of School Board because the Board members had questions about the number of paid assistants versus volunteer assistants during the last season. 

Heather Driver reported that the loss of two positions had created a surplus in the account from which the assistants are paid. So, all assistant hires being considered would still leave an excess of just over $4,000. The Chairperson said that there was a question from the Board about the change from volunteer to paid assistant. 

When asked about the difference, Driver said, “That was your previous Athletic Director’s procedure. So, that was just how he operated.” Hyatt, Griffith, and Gardener were all approved for their positions by the Board.

In a follow up email regarding comments on the hiring vs volunteer policy of the previous Athletic Director, Human Resources Director Heather Driver advised that she later found “that the previous Athletic Director was following the direction of the School Board in developing that procedure.”

New Business included Human Resources Policy Amendments. Heather Driver reviewed several changes and updates as the administration goes through an overhaul of the CCS policies and procedures, including beginning teachers support program, the child abuse reports and investigation segment, length of time to be considered a probationary employee and when employees become eligible for an appeals process.  

Dr. Murray requested the Board go into closed session to discuss a “contract personnel” issue. The Board voted to go into closed session. Those who remained in the room during the closed session included all members of the School Board, Dr. Murray, Dr. Payne, HR Director Heather Driver, John Henning (attorney), and Athletic Director Sean Ross. The closed session lasted from 5:20 p.m. to 5:45 p.m. When the Board came back in to open session, no report on actions was offered on the closed session activities. 

The next item on the New Business agenda was listed as “Sharing Meals-State Regulations/Guidelines.” Chairperson Saunooke asked if children sharing, exchanging, or giving food among themselves at lunchtime violates any regulations or guidelines. 

Dr. Murray said, “They are really not. The USDA is really what we have to. We are a separate nation, we don’t get state money, but we do follow the same USDA guidelines, and we answer to the same audits and all the other stuff. As far as sharing at the tables, our folks are not the food police. We can’t legally say that ‘if I don’t like my macaroni and cheese and Johnny’s over here starving for it, that we can’t give it to him’ and that stuff does happen at tables, but it’s not something you could put in writing and say that we are doing wholesale. No one wants a child to be hungry, period.” Packaged foods, sealed container foods, fruits, and vegetables are made available by cafeteria staff to the students who are still hungry after the meal and return trips to the serving line are allowed after all students have been served.    

There was a walk-in item. The resolution 20-050 was to recommend hiring a named candidate for a teacher assistant position. All voted to approve except John Crowe, who stated, “I am against it. Some enrolled members applied.” 

It was indicated that the person being hired was not a tribal member. Heather Driver stated that there was a tribal member that applied, was late for interviews, and during the background check, it was found that there was an inconsistency in the application versus what the research on the applicant’s previous employers reported. Based on the school system’s human resources policy, this disqualified the enrolled member candidate. At this point, the attorney attempted to recommend going into closed session, but the Board and Dr. Murray said that they had not identified the disqualified candidate and as long as they were talking in anonymity, they did not need to go to closed session. When asked if he was still against, John Crowe indicated he was still against the hiring, and Karen French-Browning also stated she was against the hire. The resolution passed to hire the individual.

Dr. Payne said she attended a seven-county regional drug prevention summit as a representative of Cherokee Central Schools. A representative of the event had previously spoken to the Board as a guest concerning the summit. She said a regional television station covered the summit and over 100 people attended it. It was an initial meeting of school administrators, government, healthcare, and law enforcement leaders. She indicated that an October meeting is scheduled, and school superintendents will be given the “takeaways” from this meeting.    

They set the meeting for the next School Board for Tuesday, Sept. 3 due to the Labor Day holiday. School Board meetings, during open session, are open to the public, and anyone may attend. 

The School Board then called another closed session at 6 p.m. This was another session to discuss a personnel issue. When asked if there would be an outcome or report out to the public regarding this closed meeting, the attorney, Mr. Henning, responded. “There is a potential. There are options that the  Board will be presented with to take action in open session. It’s possible.” According to an email response from the CCS administration, the closed meeting lasted from 6:04 p.m. until 6:40 p.m. and the notation in the email was “no action taken.”