School Board debates how to increase drug awareness

by Jul 29, 2021NEWS ka-no-he-da0 comments


One Feather Staff


The Cherokee Central Schools (CCS) Board of Education spent a large portion of their Monday, July 26 meeting discussing possibilities for combatting the drug issues on the Qualla Boundary.

The Board welcomed to the meeting Josh Taylor from Tribal Alcohol Law Enforcement (ALE) and CCS Student Resource Officers (SROs) Luke Hyde and Jason Owl. The School Board insisted that they, the SROs, and Taylor be present at the same time to help with the brainstorming session.

Officer Hyde told the Board about their time working with the DARE program, and that he was concerned about the effectiveness of offering it more grade levels. They hold classes for the first, fifth, and seventh grade. He said that while he felt the program offered a valuable resource to those kids; the longer they are in DARE classrooms, the longer they are off-duty as security. Hyde said that there was a limit to what the SROs could give given their current staffing.

School Board Chairperson Jennifer Thompson voiced her support for the SROs but said that she wanted to see significant change on the Boundary and in the school.

“The system, basically, is failing our kids. Because we’re here, you guys [Cherokee Indian Police Department] are here, and the hospital’s here and nobody’s connecting the dots. I say that it’s failing because of some personal experience with people that are close to me that would get in trouble with the law enforcement side. The school system had no idea. Or if they were caught with the school system, they would send them to juvenile. They never got anything back from the school system side. So, we’re really trying to work on that communication piece,” said Thompson.

Another major problem that was demonstrated by the SROs was that there was no place for the CIPD to take a minor in the case of significant event. If they needed to transfer a child under 18 to other juvenile services, they would have to drive all the way to Wilmington to do so.

Officer Taylor offered his advice. He felt that staffing was another missing piece to the puzzle.

“We’re sitting here making excuses when you could ask for me positions. Take SRO off the positions and put Juvenile on it. Leave the SROs up here to protect the school,” said Taylor to the SROs.

“It’s not fair for Luke and Jason to have to leave for Wilmington at 6:30 in the morning and take a little kid down there. We need some Juvenile officers to take some of that pressure off of you. You need some Juvenile officers out at one or two in the morning speaking to these little kids.”

Wolftown Tribal Council Rep. Chelsea Saunooke said that she would stand with the SROs and the school, but so much of it pointed to a broader issue. She agreed that the biggest problem in the way of progress was communication.

“Yeah, we have resource after resource, but guess what? We don’t have one place, one hub, one liaison, whatever you want to call it, that has all that information to say ‘oh you need to go here or you need to go here.’ For us to have all this funding and all the resources we have, we don’t have some hub in place to connect the dots for our people right now,” said Rep. Saunooke.

The Board said that they would continue to be in communication with each of the people at this discussion and that they hope to implement some changes in the near future.

After the guests made their way out, the Board turned their attention to the consent agenda. Karen French-Browning questioned a couple of the resolutions that had to do with hiring of teacher’s assistants. She wondered if there were any enrolled EBCI candidates for the positions and wished for more information on the hiring process.

A few minutes into this discussion, the Board moved into a closed session to discuss the consent agenda. This closed session lasted just over 10 minutes, and no report was offered from the discussion.

Following the reopening of the meeting, the Board moved to pass the consent agenda as well as three walk-in resolutions. Most of these were to do with hiring and personnel decisions at the school.

The Monday, July 26 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 Regina Ledford Rosario and Gloria Griffin; Superintendent Dr. Michael Murray; Asst. Superintendent Dr. Beverly Payne; HR Director Heather Driver; Wolftown Tribal Council Representative Chelsea Saunooke; and School Board Assistant Terri Bradley all in attendance. Board member Karen French-Browning was a few minutes late to the meeting.

The next meeting of the School Board will take place on Monday, Aug. 2 at 4:45 p.m. Meetings are once again being held in the conference room in the CCS Administrative building. Board of Education meetings are considered public meetings and are open to public attendance except for executive sessions.