One-feather staff

The Cherokee Central Schools School Board (CCS) welcomed several guests to its meeting on Monday, August 15.

Among those guests was Consie Girty, director of the Hope Center and Pre-K with CCS. She said their program had just received a big boost in hardware development.

“Our brand new phase program was selected as one of eleven of 53 phase sites across the country, to be eligible to receive $62,160 to combine with Unite For Literacy to develop our own books. We will get to produce Cherokee books with Cherokee faces and Cherokee places and a Cherokee language. And we get the money to do it. When I got that, I was just thrilled,” Girty said.

“We just got this grant for about $289,000 to fund this phase of the program last year. And we were selected in our freshman year. Our girls, I’m not going to lie, they worked really hard.

Howard Wahnetah attended the meeting to give a general update on Council finances. This was the final monthly financial report for the 2021-22 school year. He said everything was in order and the last pieces were falling into place.

Superintendent Michael Murray followed up that report by discussing his meeting with the Tribal Council to discuss the CCS budget for the 2022-23 school year. He said that in addition to the general discussion, he made sure to offer some details about the water damage issues that continue to hamper construction on campus.

“I thought it would be unfair not to mention the water intrusion issues. I updated them with where we are with that. It will probably be Christmas before we finally have everything identified and a fix in place.Then we will get to [Tribal Council] with a dollar figure. I have absolutely no idea, otherwise I would have told them it was going to cost ‘x’,” Dr Murray said.

The plan for now is to get the full damage report from Terracon and make any necessary repairs. Superintendent Murray said the legal issue was still on the table, but repairing the buildings should be dealt with first. This is something that was developed by CCS lawyer John Henning.

“Regardless of whether you can win a lawsuit or not, you will have an obligation to mitigate damages. You can’t know something has gone wrong and just sit there and let things get worse and not do your best to try to fix them. There comes a time when you have to go on and fix it in any state. Bring it back to where it needs to be, then find a fix for it. Just because there might be a lawsuit, there will never be a good reason not to go ahead and apply the fix now.

Another guest at the board meeting was Northwestern Mutual intern Blake Smith. Smith is a CCS alumnus and will begin his own practice through the internship with Northwestern Mutual.

“They do wealth management, retirement planning and some basic insurance planning. I really see the value of coming to give talks to children and showing them the opportunity that is offered to them with the money they receive. Just working with people outside of Cherokee, you never really realize how much opportunity you have until you see how they’ve built their lives. I feel so advanced, and I would love the opportunity to show kids how advanced they really are if they take advantage of it,” Smith said.

The board praised Smith for thinking about his community and offered him names to contact at school. They said they would be happy to facilitate his efforts at CCS. President Jennifer Thompson said having Smith speak to CCS students could be a wonderful opportunity to bring back a peer they respect to educate and help, especially since Smith graduated from Cherokee High School in 2019.

Henning also spoke with the board about an update to Policy 4353, which addresses long-term suspensions at CCS. The council had already had a conversation about the subject so they could work on the matter with Henning and Tribal Council representative TW Saunooke. Rep. Saunooke said the Board would be happy to work with the Board to implement the amendment to the policy, which adjusts it to match that of the state. Henning said he would submit his work soon in order to get it to the Tribal Council as soon as possible.

The agenda by consent was adopted with one amendment. Council retained a resolution, to approve Margaret Robinson as a substitute teacher, for discussion in camera. This item was also adopted after the closed session. Approval of the Consent Agenda highlighted the following:

  • Mary Bryson is approved as an 8-hour food service attendant for Cherokee Central Schools.
  • Sally Bryson is approved as a 6-hour food service attendant for Cherokee Central Schools.
  • Charlene Rodriguez is approved as a 4-hour Food Service Attendant for Cherokee Central Schools.
  • Cheryl Maney is approved as a 4-hour Food Service Attendant for Cherokee Central Schools.
  • Joshua Driver is approved as a 4-hour Food Service Worker for Cherokee Central Schools.
  • Stephen Blankenship is approved as an auto mechanic teacher at Cherokee High School.
  • Ashley Teesateskie is approved as a Cherokee Language Instructor for the Cherokee Cultural Department.
  • Mariah Crow is approved for an increase to Level 5 at her current step for the 2022/2023 school year.
  • Randall Saunooke is approved as a part-time security officer for Cherokee Central School.
  • Heather Saunooke is approved as an Elementary Social and Emotional Learning Consultant for Cherokee Elementary School.
  • Kimmemelah Perkins is approved as a substitute teacher for Cherokee Central School.

The Monday, August 15 meeting of the CCS School Board opened at 4:45 p.m. with President Jennifer Thompson; co-vice-presidents Tara Reed-Cooper and Melanie Lambert; secretary Kristina Hyatt; board members Berdie Toineeta and Regina Ledford Rosario; representative of the TW Saunooke Tribal Council; Superintendent Michael Murray; Deputy Superintendent Beverley Payne; Heather Driver, Director of Human Resources; CCS Attorney John Henning of Campbell Shatley, PLLC; and Administrative Assistant Diane Driver, all present.

The next meeting of the CCS Board of Education is scheduled for Monday, September 5 at 4:45 p.m. Meetings are being held at the administrative offices of the Cherokee Central Schools. These meetings are open to the public unless an executive meeting is called.