By JONAH LOSSIAH
One Feather Reporter
The Cherokee Central Schools (CCS) Board of Education addressed a pair of major financial issues at their latest meeting on Monday, Oct. 17.
Previously they had requested Howard Wahnetah, CCS finance director, to draft the cost of salary increase for the entire school. This increase would raise the minimum wage to fifteen dollars, a move that would match recent actions taken by the EBCI for tribal employees. As well to match the Tribe, the minimum wage increase would also see a ‘living wage adjustment’ to all employees already over the $15 threshold. These workers would get a percentage increase from 3-6 percent based on a sliding scale.
Wahnetah reported that the total cost for this salary adjustment would be $1,380,669. The overall salaries increase would cost just over one million dollars, with the remaining $336,067 being the ‘overall fringe increase’.
After a discussion amongst the Board members, a motion to submit this amount to Tribal Council was passed unanimously. With the CCS budget already established for the 2022-23 school year, this would budget increase would need to come directly from the Tribe via Tribal Council approval.
The other finance-oriented guest to the meeting was Polly Kelley from the EBCI Investment Committee. She was in attendance to provide an update on the CCS Reserve account that is managed by the Investment Committee.
Kelley described the current state of the account, painting a picture of the recent ‘rocky’ landscape of investments. The report she provided shows the volatility of the market this year. In June, the account lost nearly $700,000 in value before jumping up over $1.1 million in July. As of the start of October, the CCS Reserve Fund was worth $14,024,901.76. She said that the volatility is something that is reflective of the market as whole, but also encouraged the Board and stated that the market would turn around as inflation slows and they ride out this wave.
Kelley’s another major point was to request that the Board consider making regular contributions to the reserve account. She explained that currently the fund is simply growing with whatever the market provides. But she said that if the school wants to push for more self-sufficiency and create a more beneficial reserve fund, consistent contributions would be necessary. She said that when she was first tasked with taking over the CCS Reserve Fund, she did so without receiving much of a direction. She said that despite helping to manage the account for two years, she still felt that the account did not have a direction and that it was leaving a lot of potential gains on the table.
The Board discussed the concept of regular contributions to the investment fund with Ashford Smith, finance director of the Cherokee Boy Club. He said that it was possible, but they would need to figure out exactly where that money would come from. Some Board members discussed contributing surplus cash the school had at the end of the year, while others suggested a base-contribution implemented into the budget. Smith did clarify that the funds would have to be Tribally funded dollars and not the BIE or other funding sources. No direct investment decisions were made in this meeting, but the Board said they would be coming back to the concept soon.
The Board passed the consent agenda unanimously, putting forth the following:
- Cassandra Bowman approved as the Part Time Security Monitor.
- Gabrielle Teesatuskie approved as the Part Time Security Monitor.
- Richard Grindstaff approved as the Part Time Security Monitor.
There was also one walk-in resolution that passed. This approved Jason McMillan as the head coach of the boys’ middle school basketball team. McMillan was previously the assistant coach for the team.
The Board also implemented a number of policy changes that were recommended and compiled by Campbell Shatley, PLLC, the third-party legal service hired by the Board. They voted on each of these separately, making revisions to the following policies:
- Policy 1750/7220, Grievance Procedure for Employees.
- Policy 4339/7312, Child Abuse – Reports and Investigations
- Policy 7410, Contracts
- Policy 7930, Professional Employees: Demotion and Dismal
- Policy 7945, Employee Disciplinary Procedures
- Policy 7947, Employee Code of Conduct
- Policy 7950, Non-Career Status Teachers: Nonrenewal
- Title IX Policies
- A number of duplicative policies
Campbell Shatley is also reviewing and will offer recommendations for amendments to the Indian Preference policy at the school as well, but those changes were not yet voted on. Those were presented for first review.
The Board finished their meeting in a closed session to discuss ‘student and personnel’ issues. They had a guest, Kathy Smathers, in as part of this closed session.
The Monday, Oct.17 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; HR Director Heather Driver; CCS Attorney Ashley Leonard of Campbell Shatley, PLLC; and Administrative Assistant Diane Driver all in attendance. Tribal Council Rep. T.W. Saunooke was absent from the meeting, citing Annual Council.
The next meeting of the CCS Board of Education is set for Monday, Nov. 7 at 4:45 p.m. Meetings are being held in the Administrative Offices at Cherokee Central Schools. These meetings are open to the public unless there is a call for an executive session.