By JONAH LOSSIAH
ONE FEATHER STAFF
The Monday, July 20 meeting on the Cherokee Central Schools Board of Education was called to order at 4:45 p.m. with Board Chair Jennifer Thompson; Vice Chair Ike Long; Secretary Tara Reed-Cooper; Board members Gloria Griffin, Karen French-Browning, and Ledford Rosario; School Board Assistant Sunnie Clapsaddle; HR Director Heather Driver; Superintendent Michael Murray; Assistant Superintendent Beverly Payne; and Tribal Council representative Chelsea Saunooke present.
The most essential piece discussed at this meeting was how the Board wished to address the return to school. Last Tuesday, July 14, N.C. Governor Roy Cooper announced a state-wide decision to shift to Plan B, a hybrid of Plan A and C. However, Cherokee Central Schools is under its own jurisdiction. The Board had previously voted to start the school year on an A/B schedule, but that was voted on three weeks ago.
After discussing the consistently increasing numbers of COVID-19, the Board moved to begin the semester with remote learning only, or Plan C. The school year will officially start on Aug. 19 for students. Teachers and staff will be returning to campus on Aug. 6.
Several Board members mentioned that they had been asking the parents in their community what they wished to happen.
Tara Reed-Cooper said that she hadn’t had conversations with a very large sample size, but of all those that she had talked to one thing was clear. “None of them want to come back, none of them are ready to come back. I’m going to be honest; I can’t vote to say to send these kids back today. I can’t.”
French-Browning said that she has talked to her community members, her family, and thought for weeks about this decision. “Right now is not the time to bring those kids back. I’m sorry. I know we have to get our teachers back in here so they can start working.”
French-Browning was also concerned about how much time that CCS teachers would need to prepare for a remote learning landscape. She said that she was very willing to move the start of school to offer as much time as needed for teachers. A date of Aug. 24 was considered. After a lengthy debate, it was decided that a move to the start date would hinder more than help. Several members pointed out that this could cause testing to get pushed later and could take place after the holiday season.
Another concern that Tara Reed-Cooper brought up is that this will create unique difficulties for special education. Assistant Superintendent Beverly Payne assured there will be a focus with remote learning for special education, though she understands that it is an area of concern.
Superintendent Michael Murray said that he was ready for any direction the Board wished to go, and that he was in full support for moving to Plan C.
“Those people that you’re seeing on the news that said that we should be able to reopen schools because we reopened Wal-Mart and we reopened Lowe’s have never taught a day in their life,” said Superintendent Murray. “There is not even close to an analogy with that. There’s a big difference between putting on a mask and staying six feet apart in a Lowe’s or a Wal-Mart than it is us educating kids. The importance level of what we’re doing right now is protecting our future with our children.”
He also mentioned that this does not yet directly affect sports. He said that they are currently following the NCHSAA, who postponed fall sports until at least September. That situation will continue to be monitored moving forward.
While re-opening of schools made up most of the meeting’s discussion, there were several other pieces of business handled Monday evening.
The first guests to the Board were members from the EBCI Investment Committee. Polly Kelley, chair of the Committee, was happy to report that the CCS Reserve account had recovered from losses earlier in the year due to the economic recession caused by COVID-19. Kelley said that the Investment Committee decided to ‘ride the wave’ instead of pulling funds and that the accounts had significant gains over the last few months to make up for all the losses.
Next was the Cherokee Boys Club (CBC) financial update. They said that there was “nothing out of the ordinary to report” and noted that several departments will have lessened budgets due to cuts. There was a question about the budget for sanitary products, and the CBC said there was money set aside for masks, sanitizer, and other cleaning products.
There was also the handling of the consent agenda and a couple pieces of new business. Five of the nine resolutions on the consent agenda were pulled for further discussions, and the remaining four were passed unanimously. They set forth the following:
- The Student Wellness Policy (policy 6140) be adopted as revised.
- Tina Swimmer approved as a middle school volleyball volunteer.
- Jennifer Neal approved as an elementary teacher for CES.
- Geraldine Bradley approved as a full-time custodian for CCS.
The two other items passed were the K-12 CARES Funding Assurances and Policy 4230 Communicable Diseases-Students.
The final topic in open session came from Superintendent Murray who wished to highlight Assistant Superintendent Payne for her efforts during the process. He announced that she will be presenting CCS’s plans to the Bureau of Indian Education (BIE) on Wednesday, July 22 during an online meeting. The BIE requested this of CCS, and Murray says it is a great honor for the school. He will also be part of that presentation.
The meeting finished in a closed session.
The next gathering of the CCS Board of Education will occur on Monday, Aug. 3. This meeting was held in the Chief Joyce Dugan Cultural Arts Center at CCS to ensure proper social distancing and will be new location until further notice.