By JONAH LOSIAH
One Feather Staff
A dissertation request from Villareal Nika West, a member of the Eastern Band of Cherokee Indians, has been approved by the Cherokee Central Schools (CCS) Board of Education.
This issue was tabled for further discussion at the Board’s previous meeting held on May 17, and this led to West submitting a follow-up request that amended his goals for the research. In his initial letter, West said that he was planning to collect data from EBCI and Cherokee Nation schools. Now, he is looking to focus on CCS more as a case study on the effect of the COVID-19 pandemic. He wishes to look at 9th and 10th grade student test scores for the 2018-19, 2020-21, and 2021-22 school years. This study would also include voluntary surveys of students, teachers, administrators, and parents.
Once again, West states that ‘I understand everyone’s concern in regards to the confidentiality of students, teachers, parents, and the Eastern Band of Cherokee Indians school system.’ However, there was still discussion in the meeting on the practicality of the research.
“I’m not sure how beneficial this will be to us. I mean, I think we have a pretty good idea that the pandemic was not a great thing for education in general. But I think this is a tighter proposal to the first one he sent,” said Assistant Superintendent Dr. Beverly Payne.
“I don’t have as many concerns tonight as I did two weeks ago. I’ll tell you my biggest concern. I don’t know what kind of timeline he’s working on, but he’s asking for data from three different school years. And this is not like aggregate numbers, he would need to have individual student records. Which means I would have to go into every single one of those data files and clean out any identifying information. ‘Cause he can have a score, he just can’t know whose score that is,” continued Payne.
Board Member Gloria Griffin asked if there were any other members of staff that could help to make this an easier project for Payne and the school. Payne had brought someone to the meeting for that very conversation.
Board Member Karen French-Browning brought up her concerns about this proposal at the last meeting as well, and she still held concerns.
“I just don’t want the people in the community to think that we’re not wanting to help this boy. But I don’t think they realize how much time it’s going to take [Dr. Payne],” said French-Browning.
Superintendent Dr. Michael Murray said that he did want to help Mr. West and others wishing to work with CCS, but that the Board needed to take into account the time and resources that it would expend.
“That data’s free for anybody to use, as far as data goes. But to get it prepared for him to use it, it is going to be costly for us,” said Murray.
No decision was made in the initial open session. Chairperson Jennifer Thompson suggested that the Board consider what they had discussed and that they would have further conversations in closed session. The dissertation request was approved following this closed session.
The consent agenda consisted of 50 resolutions primarily covering summer staffing and continuing of contracts of individuals at the school. Four of the items were pulled for further discussion, though all were passed later in the meeting.
The Board held a brief discussion over a proposal that would offer a stipend to coaches that participated in athletic summer workouts for their respective sports. The proposal offered a pay scale based on years of experience. The Board agreed that there was not enough information regarding how many coaches would be potentially participating and how costly this would be to the athletics budget. Because of this, the Board chose to table the issue until they could hold a meeting with Athletic Director Sean Ross.
There were multiple walk-in items for the Board to review, as well. One was a leave request from an employee, which was approved after a discussion in closed session. Another was a request for the school to add another special education teacher to the staff at CCS. This was also approved. The remaining walk-ins addressed edits and approval of job descriptions for the following positions:
- Special Education Teacher
- Interim Social Worker (held for closed session)
- Math & Reading Interventionist
- Mental Health Therapist
- Pre-K Permanent Substitute Teacher.
All other items that were not decided upon on the floor were taken into closed session and approved afterward.
The Monday, June 7 meeting of the CCS Board of Education was called to order at 4:45 p.m. with Chairperson Jennifer Thompson; Vice Chair Isaac Long; Secretary Tara Reed-Cooper; Board members Karen French-Browning and Gloria Griffin; Superintendent Dr. Michael Murray; Asst. Superintendent Dr. Beverly Payne; HR Director Heather Driver; and School Board Assistant Sunnie Clapsaddle all in attendance. Wolftown Tribal Council Representative Chelsea Saunooke attended virtually. Board member Regina Ledford Rosario was an excused absentee for the meeting.
The next meeting of the CCS School Board is scheduled for Monday, June 21 at 4:45 p.m. The Board has just moved back to having meetings in the conference room in the CCS Central Office.