Cherokee School Board staying cautious as students return      

by Aug 18, 2021NEWS ka-no-he-da



One Feather Staff


Students returned to Cherokee Centrals Schools (CCS) on Monday, Aug. 16 with an announced enrollment of 1,410 students.

The CCS Board of Education met of Monday to discuss the semester moving forward. It was stressed that protocols would be consistently reviewed and monitored as the situation surrounding COVID evolved. The School Board originally delayed the start of school after a spike in positive COVID cases hit Cherokee. In the two-week span since that decision, there have been 118 new cases reported through EBCI Public Health and Human Services.

Superintendent Michael Murray said that they are holding strong on the mask mandate for CCS and that he is very confident in the measures being taken at the school. Murray said that with the heightened protocols and ventilation system in place at the school, he believed there wasn’t a safer school around.

Before the Board dove into the COVID discussion, they welcomed multiple guests. Dakota Brown was there from the Museum of the Cherokee Indian, Ashford Smith offered a report on the budget, Laura Pinnix reported on the current state of the CCS cultural programs, and Cherokee Indian Police Chief Josh Taylor was there to discuss updates to the MoU with CCS.

Brown said that she was excited to be involved with this meeting and that the Museum is interested in developing a more consistent relationship with CCS. She said that the new executive director, Shana Bushyhead Condill, has a focus on the Museum being a resource option for the local community. She said that a big part of that could be functionality with the school.

The Board agreed that building a relationship with the Museum would be beneficial and would allow them to bring in more cultural aspects to the school. While nothing was finalized, the Board said that would continue to be in dialogue with the Museum as they roll out new initiatives.

Smith was the next guest, and he said there wasn’t any significant to report from the current budget. He handed out the last financials that he could, which were from June. The CCS fiscal year rolls over in July, but the school has yet to have their 2021-22 budget approved by Tribal Council. The Board and Smith will be attending a virtual budget meeting with Council on Wednesday, Aug. 18 to finalize funding. Superintendent Murray said that he was confident that it would pass this time around after a clarifying raises and boasting teacher salaries.

The proposed budget for the upcoming school year would see a total increase of $4,153,987. Of that, $1,460,875 would be in Tribal funding. Due to the pandemic, CCS accepted a smaller budget and had to use funds from their reserve account to balance the scales last year. The total Tribal funding from gaming would be $7,960,875. Grant, ARP, and other revenues push the proposed CCS budget to $38,013,311.

Following the finance report, Pinnix gave her update on the each of the schools and requested a closed session to discuss personnel issues. That closed session was granted and lasted for just over 50 minutes. No report was offered on the discussion, but Murray said that no action was taken in closed session.

Police Chief Josh Taylor talked with the Board about a memorandum of agreement between CCS and the CIPD. This MoU deals with student resource officers and the polices around them. The school had worked together draft for Taylor and his staff to review. Both Taylor and Murray said the original MoU was out of date. The parties agreed that they would all review the new document and meet again in two weeks to try and finalize a new agreement.

The consent agenda had just two items, both approving volunteer coaches for the varsity boys’ basketball team. The Board passed the agenda, as well as the lone walk-in resolution that approved a new Pre-K teacher.

The Board voted to request a standards assessment and accountability waiver from the Bureau of Indian Education (BIE) for the next five years. Assistant Principal Beverly Payne explained that this was the same waiver that they were approved for last year, but the BIE insisted that it be for only one year. Dr. Murray advised that the Board request multiple years, citing that consistency would be valuable moving forward. The waiver allows CCS to set their own standards, as well as using those of North Carolina.

The Monday, August 16 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 member 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 late and attended virtually. Regina Ledford Rosario was absent from the meeting

The next meeting of the School Board will take place on Tuesday, Sept. 7 at 4:45 p.m. Meetings are being held in the Chief Joyce Dugan Cultural Arts Center at CCS. Board of Education meetings are considered public meetings and are open to public attendance except for executive sessions.