By BROOKLYN BROWN
One Feather Reporter
CHEROKEE, N.C. – The School Board of Cherokee Central Schools met on Monday, Nov. 6, and the board had an in-depth discussion on their budget for fiscal year 2023. The board ultimately decided to decrease staff salary raises from 15 percent to 7.5 percent to decrease their budget by $2 million as requested by Principal Chief Michell Hicks and Tribal Council.
The School Board Meeting was held in the Central Office Board Room, with board members, staff and guests participating. The meeting was called to order at 4:47 p.m. by Chairperson Jennifer Thompson.
Melanie Lambert led roll call. All members and staff were present, including Jennifer Thompson, chairperson and Yellowhill rep.; Tara Reed-Cooper, co-vice chairperson and Big Y rep.; Micah Swimmer, Painttown rep.; Kristina Hyatt, Big Cove rep.; Melanie Lambert, co-vice chairperson and Birdtown rep.; Roberta Toineeta, Wolftown rep.; Consuela Girty, superintendent; Dr. Beverly Payne, assistant superintendent; Dr. Jo Ray, HR director; Diane Driver, executive administrative assistant; and Michael Stamper, Tribal Council representative.
Guests in attendance were Brooklyn Brown, One Feather reporter, and Josel Layno, CCS IT. Layno helped board members with various technical issues regarding computers and emails.
The opening prayer was led by Girty. The previous meeting minutes from Oct. 16 were approved unanimously and minutes from a closed meeting on Nov. 2 were approved unanimously as amended with a motion by Reed-Cooper seconded by Lambert. Brooklyn Brown, One Feather reporter was listed in the Nov. 2 minutes as an attending guest when Brown was not in attendance. The agenda was approved unanimously with a motion by Reed-Cooper seconded by Lambert.
Dr. Beverly Payne shared that the Dogwood Health Trust has approved funding for a summer program to teach life skills to Cherokee High School and Cherokee Middle School students including personal finance, car maintenance, meal planning, and more. The program will include a one-week overnight camp for high school students and day camp for middle school students. Payne added that the program plans to extend into the school year with the first cohort of students attending after school and weekend activities throughout the year. Girty added that the program will also include cultural components, providing the example of a ramp gathering activity in the spring. Payne added that a stipend will be provided for the students, with the amount to be determined.
CBC Finance Director Rhonica Via and CCS Finance Director Howard Wahnetah attended the meeting to discuss budget adjustments for fiscal year 2023. Chairperson Thompson shared that the Chief and Tribal Council requested that the School Board decrease their budget by $2 million if possible. Via presented three options by request of Thompson for decreasing the budget: decreasing staff salary raises from 15 percent to either 10 percent, 7.5 percent, or 5 percent.
Via also presented the option of cutting positions: three bullying prevention specialist positions and two cultural specialist positions. Reed-Cooper passionately shared that she refused to vote to cut any of the budget. Thompson said that the best option would be to decrease staff salary raises from 15 percent to 7.5 percent, as the 10 percent decrease would not meet the $2 million goal, but 7.5 percent would. Thompson added that the proposed positions are important positions, especially in light of recent occurrences at CCS. Lambert, Hyatt, Toineeta, and Swimmer ultimately agreed with Thompson. The entire board shared the sentiment that they did not wish to cut the budget at all. Thomspon echoed that the board should be good stewards of tribal monies. The board voted to approve the budget adjustment from 15 percent to 7.5 percent for staff salary raises, with Reed-Cooper disagreeing and Stamper abstaining.
Via suggested that the board move up retention bonuses from April to before Thanksgiving to maintain employee morale. The board voted to approve $1,250 retention bonuses before Thanksgiving to every employee who signed a letter of intent, as well as $1,000 to integrated classroom workers, $1,000 to SROs, $500 to full-time bus drivers and $50 to part-time bus drivers, and $250 to substitutes. Stamper abstained from voting.
The board approved the consent agenda as amended with a motion by Lambert seconded by Toineeta. Stamper abstained from voting. Reed-Cooper raised a question regarding the policy for volunteer coaches. The board entered a closed session at 6:40pm with a motion by Lambert seconded by Toineeta to discuss Resolution 24-088 (Cody Gloyne is approved to volunteer with the Middle School Basketball Program). Resolution 24-088 was held for more information and will be sent to the board in an email poll on Tuesday, Nov. 14. Resolution 24-090 was read into the minutes by Lambert. Reed-Cooper motioned to pass the resolution, seconded by Swimmer. The following resolutions were approved from the consent agenda.
- 24-085 Tyson Deal is approved as a Middle School Pathseekers Assistant.
- 24-086 Louis Hogue is approved to volunteer with the Middle School to assist with reading skills.
- 24-087 Carol Hogue is approved to volunteer with the Middle School to assist with reading skills.
- 24-089 Shelena Ledford is approved as the Middle School Softball Coach for the Cherokee Central Schools.
Swimmer shared an idea with the board to show appreciation for all the photographers who attend school events and capture photos of the students. As a parent of Cherokee High School students, Swimmer acknowledged that it is difficult to capture photographs of your own children in those moments and appreciates photographers as they are capturing memories and documenting history. The board decided to show appreciation at one of the home basketball games.
The board approved salary adjustments for William Hansell, CMS alternative teacher, and Mary Bryson, community affairs administration, with motions from Reed-Cooper seconded by Hyatt. Stamper abstained.
Girty shared that CCS will have a Christmas Luncheon on Dec. 12 and Dec. 14, where parents are encouraged to eat lunch with their children. School Board members, Tribal Council, Chief and Vice Chief are also invited to the luncheon.
Girty shared that CCS was approached to host the West v. Midwest 1A All-Star Basketball Games. The board declined the offer to host the games due to cost and time inefficiency.
The next School Board meeting will be held in Greenboro, N.C., as the board members attend the North Carolina School Board Association Conference, date to be determined.
The meeting adjourned at 8:02 p.m. Unless in executive or closed session, Cherokee Central Schools Board of Education meetings are open to the public.