Cherokee Central School continues mask mandate and lunchroom closure in marathon School Board session

by Feb 28, 2022NEWS ka-no-he-da0 comments



One Feather Staff


The Cherokee Central Schools (CCS) Board of Education met for nearly six hours on Thursday, Feb. 24, spending two and a half hours in closed session.

A large topic of discussion in open session was how CCS was going to operate for the remainder of this school year regarding COVID. Superintendent Michael Murray suggested that the Board consider moving facemasks to being optional. Murray also suggested that the Board open the lunchroom to students. Since reopening the school, students have been eating meals in their classrooms. Murray said that there has been a push across the state to move to optional for each of these issues.

Regina Ledford Rosario was one member who was staunchly against the move, stating that as long as there was a pandemic, she would vote for a required mask mandate. Chairperson Jennifer Thompson stated that Cherokee was in a unique position with an ability to offer specific protections for the community.

After a significant period of discussion, the Board voted 5 to 1 to maintain masks as a requirement for all students and staff in Cherokee Central Schools buildings for the rest of the semester.  The lone dissenting vote came from co-Vice Chair Tara Reed-Cooper.

Reed-Cooper also made a motion to open CCS lunchrooms to students. This was seconded by Melanie Lambert. This motion was voted down 2 to 4, with the two votes in favor cast by Reed-Cooper and Lambert.

Reed-Cooper was adamant that opening the lunchrooms would offer a boost to the kids, as well as make it easier on the lunchroom staff. Superintendent Murray said that opening the cafeteria could present an opportunity to increase the menu for students, such as the salad bar that has been unavailable throughout the pandemic.

Superintendent Murray said that he would be working with nutrition Director Tammy Parris to come up with solutions to increase satisfaction among students. Tara Reed-Cooper also mentioned that they would be presenting motions to CCS student council. She said if there were not conclusive decisions made in the next week, she would also offer whatever assistance she could to Murray and the staff to make immediate improvements.

The first guests to the meeting on Thursday evening were a group who are doing a project at Cherokee Central Schools to teach kids about air quality. The presentation was led by Sara Duncan, an assistant professor at Western Carolina University. Duncan works in the WCU Environmental Health program. She has been coming to CCS every Thursday to teach a class on air quality and other lessons regarding clean energy. Also attending the meeting were Ronda Denton and Andrew Bobilya. Denton and Bobilya said they are implementing Cherokee language into some of the lessons and finding different ways to keep the lessons hands-on and multi-dimensional.

The Board followed up on a topic from last meeting and picked two dates to designate as mental health days for employees. Friday, March 18 and Monday, April 18 will now be days of paid administrative leave for employees. This is a move to assist with the fatigue caused by working in the school systems over the last two years. The Board said they will continue to discuss other ways they can assist with worker fatigue in the future.

The board pulled three resolutions before voting on Thursday’s consent agenda. The remaining resolutions were passed, putting forth the following:

  • Tim Hawkins approved as a varsity baseball assistant coach.
  • Charleston George approved as a fulltime security monitor.
  • Spanish class travel to the South Pacific in Summer of 2023.

The Board then moved into a closed session to discuss four resolutions as well to discuss ‘personnel’ issues. The four items discussed were:

  • Brett Robertson approved as Facilities Director.
  • Valerie Dillard approved as a High School substitute teacher
  • Crystal Edding approved as a Pre-K substitute teacher.
  • The CCS strength and conditioning weight room named in honor of former student and employee William Richard Welch.

The Board voted to move into closed session at 7:36 p.m. and remained in this closed session until 10:12 p.m. Following the opening, the Board moved to take several votes.

The Board voted down 2-4 the resolution to approved Brett Robertson as Facilities Director. Kristina Hyatt and Tara Reed-Cooper were the votes for.

The vote was unanimously in favor of renaming the weight room after William Richard Welch. The Board also passed amendments to three pieces of policy – Policy 7105, 7100, and 7945. These were unanimously passed except for 7105, which passed 5-1.

The lone vote against 7105 was Regina Ledford Rosario. This policy changed clarified that no administrators and managers could participate as coaches at CCS.

The Thursday, Feb. 24 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 Berdie Toineeta and Regina Ledford Rosario; Superintendent Michael Murray; Assistant Superintendent Beverley Payne; Tribal Council Alternate Rep. T.W. Saunooke; School Board Attorney John Henning from Campbell Shatley, PLLC; HR Director Heather Driver; and Administrative Assistant Terri Bradley all in attendance.

The next meeting of the CCS board of education is set for Monday, March 7 at 4:45 p.m. Meetings are currently being held in the Chief Joyce Dugan Cultural Arts Center located at Cherokee Middle School. This next session will be open to the public with no planned closed sessions.