CCS Board partners with Big Brothers Big Sisters, changes meeting structure

by Dec 7, 2021NEWS ka-no-he-da0 comments



One Feather Staff


The first guests to the Monday, Dec. 6 meeting of the Cherokee Central Schools (CCS) Board of Education were representatives from Big Brothers Big Sisters (BBBS) of Western North Carolina.

BBBS has been in communication with Superintendent Michael Murray and the principals of CCS to work on a partnership in the near future. BBBS establishes mentorship programs for communities and schools to offer more support for struggling children. They employ different methods, assigning adult and peer mentors to varying situations. They attach a mentor, or a ‘Big’, to a ‘Little’ for these programs. BBBS pride themselves in helping their ‘Littles’ to more successful lives and reducing dangerous behaviors such as violence and drug use.

Chairperson Jennifer Thompson, center, signs the MOA with Big Brothers Big Sisters of Western North Carolina on the evening of Monday, Dec. 6. BBBS Regional Executive Director Lelia Duncan (left) and Recruitment & Development Specialist Dorian Palmer (right) watch alongside. (JONAH LOSSIAH/One Feather photo)

The visiting team included Regional Executive Director Lelia Duncan, Recruitment and Development Specialist Dorian Palmer, Swain County Program Coordinator Shelby Hyatt, and Clay County Program Coordinator Chloe Jackson-Pierce.

Duncan said that they have been focused on expanding to further reaching counties in WNC over the last few years, and that they were extremely excited by the prospect of working on the Qualla Boundary. She said that representation and diversity is an important aspect of what BBBS tries to accomplish.

Several Board members had input and support for this partnership.

“Our students from the high school need to be mentoring our younger kids. When my son was younger, he went to the Youth Center. I was just mom … he didn’t want my assistance. But a football player on the football team that he had seen every Friday night that got his called across the big speaker, he responded to that differently,” said Tara Reed-Cooper

“This organization has been around for a while. As you can tell from the MOA, they have quite a few good checks and balances involved. We want to see this as a long-term commitment where we both are growing,” said Superintendent Murray.

The Board unanimously approved a partnership between BBBS of WNC and CCS, and Chairperson Thompson signed the agreement with Duncan and Palmer.

The next guest to the meeting was Polly Kelley from the EBCI Investment Committee to provide a quarterly update on the CCS account. She explained that the CCS Reserve Fund has had to deal with some of the volatility of the market over the last few months. September saw the account lose 415,236 dollars. The account immediately bounced back with an increase of 401,036 dollars in October. As of the Oct. 31 report that Kelley provided, the CCS Reserve Fund sits at just over 16 million dollars.

Kelly also said that the Investment Committee and EBCI Finance wanted to work with CCS to spread awareness for the website dedicated to the Minors Trust Fund. The site launched this year and provides access to the account as well as resources and education materials for kids and parents. Kelley wishes to hold an assembly at the school, and the Board mentioned other ways in which CCS could collaborate for this effort.

Online access to the Minors Trust Fund for active members can be found through For any further questions, concerns, or other information you can contact Lavita Hill at 359-7085 or

The final significant piece of business that was handled in Monday’s meeting was a debate surrounding attorney involvement in meetings moving forward. Superintendent Murray said that he had been in consistent communication with Campbell Shantley PLLC, the firm that the Board uses for their attorney services.

“I had someone else ask me why we use an outside lawyer. According to our contract with the BIE, we have to follow Tribal Federal law except for when there is none written. Then we follow the state in which we are in. According to the BIE, we have to follow the state guidelines except for the cultural aspect. So, for school attorneys, we have to follow what the School Board Association says as part of our contract to get Federal funding. If we renege on that part of the contract, we run the risk of losing our BIE funding. Which is about three-quarters of our budget,” said Chairperson Jennifer Thompson.

Tribal Council Rep. Bo Crowe had concerns with some of the interactions the Board had leading up to this point.

“When he sat right there, everything the School Board tried to do he said you couldn’t do it anyhow. After that day, I went home and wondered ‘why even have a School Board?’ Because everything he was asked, ‘no you can’t do that’. And in my opinion, it’s really not his job to tell you what you can and can’t do,” said Crowe “If somebody calls you, you’re not supposed to talk to them. You’re supposed to send it elsewhere … by the way when he left, it was more that School Board’s just a policy board. All you do is come up with the policy that Dr. Murray runs by. And nothing else. I might’ve understood it different than what most people did, but that’s what I got from it.”

Kristina Hyatt was in favor of the attorney presence and said that she believed the role of a School Board member has been confused by many in Cherokee.

“As a new Board member, I really appreciated him being here to kind of guide us. Kind of teach us, walk us through the process. When Bo was describing that we were a policy board, from what I learned he described what I thought, how things are supposed to be ran … I feel like some of us, and even a lot of those out in the community, really don’t understand what the School Board is, what we do,” said Hyatt.

After deliberating for close to an hour, the Board decided it would be best to have the attorney for all closed sessions moving forward.

The Board approved a new temporary structure to their meetings. They will still meet every first Monday of the month. However, instead of the second meeting being on the third Monday, it will now be held on the fourth Thursday. This is to accommodate the current schedule of their attorney. The move stated that all closed sessions would be shifted to this Thursday meeting and have the presence of the Board’s attorney. These attorney-attended meetings will not be exclusively closed, but any closed session will be held on these dates. This structure will run through the remaining school year and will be reassessed after June.

This change will take effect at their next in-person meeting. Due to holiday scheduling, the next meeting is set for Thursday, Jan. 6. This will be a fully open session. The next with their attorney in attendance will be on Thursday, Jan. 27.

The consent agenda consisted of two resolutions and was passed by the Board. It put forth the following:

  • Clarence Roberts approved as an assistant coach for the wrestling team.
  • Sarah Pascal approved as a parttime custodian.

The Monday, Dec. 6 meeting of the CCS Board of Education was called to order at 4:45 p.m. with Chairperson Jennifer Thompson; Co-Vice Chairs Tara Reed-Cooper and Melanie Lambert; Secretary Kristina Hyatt; Board members Regina Ledford Rosario and Berdie Toineeta; Tribal Council Rep. Bo Crowe; HR Director Heather Driver; and Administrative Assistant Terri Bradley all in attendance. Assistant Superintendent Beverly Payne was an excused absentee from the meeting as she was tending to family.

The next in-person meeting of the School Board is scheduled for Thursday, Jan. 6 at 4:45 p.m. If necessary, the Board will have an email poll to handle any business around Dec. 20. Meetings are being held in the conference room of the new administrative building on the CCS campus. These sessions are considered public meetings and are open to public attendance except for closed sessions.