By JONAH LOSSIAH
Staff with a feather
The first guests to the Cherokee Central Schools Education Council (CCS) Monday, December 6 meeting were representatives from Big Brothers Big Sisters (BBBS) of western North Carolina.
BBBS has been in contact with Superintendent Michael Murray and the directors of CCS to work on a partnership in the near future. BBBS establishes mentoring programs for communities and schools to offer more support to children in difficulty. They employ different methods, assigning adult and peer mentors to various situations. They attach a mentor, or a “big”, to a “little one” for these programs. BBBS prides itself on helping its “little ones” to have more successful lives and to reduce dangerous behaviors such as violence and drug use.
The visiting team included Regional Executive Director Lelia Duncan, Recruitment and Development Specialist Dorian Palmer, Swain Shelby Hyatt County Program Coordinator and Clay County Program Coordinator Chloe Jackson-Pierce.
Duncan said they have focused on expanding to reach other WNC counties over the past few years and are extremely excited to be working on the Qualla border. She said representation and diversity is an important aspect of what BBBS is trying to accomplish.
Several Board members have contributed and supported this partnership.
âOur high school students need to be mentors to our younger ones. When my son was younger, he went to the Youth Center. I was just a momâ¦ he didn’t want my help. But a football player from the football team whom he had seen every Friday night and who had received his call through the big loudspeaker, he answered differently, âsaid Tara Reed-Cooper.
âThis organization has been around for some time. As you can see from the MOA, they have some good checks and balances involved. We want to see this as a long term commitment where we both grow up, âsaid Superintendent Murray.
The Board of Directors unanimously approved a partnership between BBBS of WNC and CCS, and Chairman Thompson signed the agreement with Duncan and Palmer.
The next guest at the meeting was Polly Kelley of the EBCI Investment Committee to provide a quarterly update on the CCS account. She explained that the CCS Reserve Fund has had to contend with some of the market volatility in recent months. September saw the account lose $ 415,236. The account immediately rebounded, rising to $ 401,036 in October. According to the Oct. 31 report provided by Kelley, the CCS reserve fund stands at just over $ 16 million.
Kelly also said that the investment committee and EBCI Finance are keen to work with CCS to publicize the dedicated juvenile trust fund website. The site launched this year and provides access to the account as well as resources and educational materials for children and parents. Kelley is interested in having a meeting at the school, and the board has mentioned other ways the CCS could collaborate in this effort.
Online access to the Minors Trust Fund for active members can be found at usicg.com. For any other questions, concerns, or other information, you can contact Lavita Hill at 359-7085 or [email protected]
The last major case that was dealt with at Monday’s meeting was a debate on the involvement of lawyers in upcoming meetings. Superintendent Murray said he has been in constant communication with Campbell Shantley PLLC, the firm the Council uses for its legal services.
âI asked someone else to ask me why we are using an outside lawyer. According to our contract with the BIE, we must follow federal tribal law, except when there is no written one. Then we follow the state we are in. According to the BIE, we must follow the directives of the State, except for the cultural aspect. So, for the lawyers of the schools, we have to follow what the Association of School Boards says as part of our contract to obtain federal funding. If we waive this part of the contract, we run the risk of losing our BIE funding. That’s about three-quarters of our budget, âsaid President Jennifer Thompson.
Tribal Council representative Bo Crowe was concerned about some of the interactions the council had had so far.
âWhen he was sitting there, whatever the school board was trying to do, he would say you couldn’t do it anyway. After that day, I came home and wondered “why even have a school board?” Because all we asked him, ‘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, âCrowe said. âIf someone calls you, you are not supposed to speak to them. You’re supposed to send him somewhere elseâ¦ besides, when he left, it was more that the school board was just a political board. All you do is come up with the policy that Dr. Murray is leading. And nothing else. I might have understood it differently than most people understood, but that’s what I got from it.
Kristina Hyatt was in favor of having a lawyer present and said she believes the role of a school board member has been confused by many in Cherokee.
âAs a new board member, I really appreciated that he was there to guide us. In a way, teach us, guide us through the process. When Bo was describing that we were a board of directors, from what I learned he described what I thought, how things are supposed to goâ¦ I feel like some of us , and even a lot of those in the community, really don’t. I don’t understand what the school board is, what we do, âHyatt said.
After deliberating for almost an hour, Council decided that it would be better to have counsel for all in camera sessions in the future.
The Board approved a new temporary structure for their meetings. They will still meet every first Monday of the month. However, instead of the second meeting taking place on the third Monday, it will now be held on the fourth Thursday. This is to take into account the current schedule of their lawyer. The ruling said all closed-door sessions would be postponed to that Thursday meeting and would have board counsel present. These meetings attended by lawyers will not be exclusively closed, but any closed session will be held on these dates. This structure will continue until the end of the school year and will be reassessed after June.
This change will take effect at their next in-person meeting. Due to the holiday calendar, the next meeting is scheduled for Thursday January 6th. It will be a fully open session. The next one in the presence of their lawyer will take place on Thursday, January 27.
The consent agenda consisted of two resolutions and was adopted by the board. He put forward the following:
- Clarence Roberts has been approved as an assistant coach for the wrestling team.
- Sarah Pascal approved as a part-time babysitter.
The CCS Education Council’s Monday December 6 meeting was opened at 4:45 p.m. with President Jennifer Thompson; co-vice-presidents Tara Reed-Cooper and Melanie Lambert; Secretary Kristina Hyatt; board members Regina Ledford Rosario and Berdie Toineeta; representative of the Bo Crowe Tribal Council; Director of Human Resources Heather Driver; and Administrative Assistant Terri Bradley all present. Deputy Superintendent Beverly Payne was an excused absentee from the meeting because she was looking after her family.
The next in-person school board meeting is scheduled for Thursday January 6 at 4:45 pm If necessary, the board will organize an email survey to deal with any matters around December 20. Meetings take place in the conference room. of the new administrative building on the CCS campus. These sessions are considered public meetings and are open to the public, with the exception of closed sessions.