By JONAH LOSSIAH

One-feather staff

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

A big 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 has suggested the council consider making face masks optional. Murray also suggested that the Council open the dining room to students. Since the reopening of the school, the pupils have taken their meals in their classrooms. Murray said there’s been a statewide push to go optional for each of those issues.

Regina Ledford Rosario was one of the members who strongly opposed the move, stating that as long as there was a pandemic, she would vote for a mandatory mask mandate. President Jennifer Thompson said Cherokee is in a unique position with the ability to offer community-specific protections.

After a long 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 remainder of the semester. The only dissenting vote came from Co-Vice Chair Tara Reed-Cooper.

Reed-Cooper also introduced a motion to open CCS canteens to students. This was seconded by Mélanie Lambert. This motion was defeated 2-4, with both votes in favor cast by Reed-Cooper and Lambert.

Reed-Cooper was adamant that opening the dining halls would give kids a boost and make it easier for dining hall staff. Superintendent Murray said the cafeteria opening could be an opportunity to increase the menu for students, such as the salad bar which has not been available throughout the pandemic.

Superintendent Murray said he will work with Director of Nutrition Tammy Parris to find solutions to increase student satisfaction. Tara Reed-Cooper also mentioned that they will be presenting motions to the CCS student council. She said if no conclusive decision was made next week, she would also offer all possible assistance to Murray and the staff to make immediate improvements.

The first guests at Thursday night’s meeting were a group doing a project in Cherokee Central Schools to teach children about air quality. The presentation was led by Sara Duncan, assistant professor at Western Carolina University. Duncan works in WCU’s Environmental Health Program. She comes to CCS every Thursday to teach a class on air quality and other clean energy lessons. Also present at the meeting were Ronda Denton and Andrew Bobilya. Denton and Bobilya said they are implementing the Cherokee language into some of the lessons and finding different ways to keep the lessons practical and multifaceted.

The board followed up on a topic from the last meeting and chose two dates to designate as mental health days for employees. Friday March 18 and Monday April 18 will now be paid administrative days off for employees. This is a measure to relieve the fatigue caused by working in the school systems over the past two years. The council said it will continue to discuss other ways to help workers reduce fatigue in the future.

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

  • Tim Hawkins has been approved as an assistant college baseball coach.
  • Charleston George has been approved as a full-time safety monitor.
  • Spanish class trip to the South Pacific in the summer of 2023.

Council then moved into an in camera session to discuss four resolutions as well as to discuss “staffing” matters. The four points discussed were:

  • Brett Robertson has been approved as Director of Facilities.
  • Valérie Dillard approved as a high school substitute teacher
  • Crystal Edding has been approved as a pre-K substitute teacher.
  • The CCS weight and weight room named after former student and employee William Richard Welch.

Council voted to go into closed session at 7:36 p.m. and remained in that closed session until 10:12 p.m. After the opening, the Council decided to proceed to several votes.

The board defeated 2-4 the resolution to approve Brett Robertson as facilities manager. Kristina Hyatt and Tara Reed-Cooper were the upvotes.

The vote was unanimous in favor of renaming the weight room after William Richard Welch. The board also passed amendments to three policy items – policy 7105, 7100 and 7945. These passed unanimously, with the exception of 7105, which passed 5-1.

The only vote against 7105 was Regina Ledford Rosario. This amended policy clarified that no administrator and manager could participate as a coach in the CCS.

The Thursday, February 24 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; Superintendent Michael Murray; Deputy Superintendent Beverley Payne; alternate representative of the TW Saunooke Tribal Council; School Board Attorney John Henning of Campbell Shatley, PLLC; Heather Driver, Director of Human Resources; and Administrative Assistant Terri Bradley, all present.

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