Published On: Tue, Jun 23rd, 2020

CCS to operate on ‘bare bones’ budget

 

 

By JONAH LOSSIAH

ONE FEATHER STAFF

 

The Monday, June 15 meeting of the Cherokee Central Schools (CCS) Board of Education was called to order at 4:45 p.m. with Chair Jennifer Thompson; Vice Chair Isaac Long; Secretary Tara Reed-Cooper; Board members Gloria Griffin, and Karen French-Browning ; School Board Assistant Sunnie Clapsaddle; HR Director Heather Driver; Superintendent Dr. Michael Murray; Assistant Superintendent Dr. Beverly Payne; and Tribal Council representative Chelsea Saunooke present. Board member Regina Ledford Rosario called in-advance and asked to be excused for health precautions.

The meeting began with bringing in Howard Wahnetah and Ashford Smith for a CCS Finance update. The last time they reported to the School Board was to finalize the CCS budget for fiscal year 2020-21.

“Since the last conversation we had regarding the budget, a lot of things have happened,” said Smith.

“The biggest thing is that we reached out to Tribal Finance with a copy of our budget, and they informed us that the Tribe is running on a 50 percent gaming revenue projection. Last year, the Tribe budgeted at 80 percent, which gave us the 8.4 million dollars. So, since the Tribe is budgeting less, of course that meant less funding for us. They had told us to operate off a 6.5-million-dollar allocation for gaming. Well, since we were asking for an additional 4 million dollars, that put our budget in a bind.”

Smith and Wahnetah said that they have pooled all the resources and tried to find the most effective way to make cuts. Wahnetah said that he has talked to each of the principals in the schools and asked them where they can save. That means maintaining vacancies for some positions. He said that one of the main goals is to maintain jobs at the school, and that so far, they have.

Smith and Wahnetah said that they have found about $2 million to cut and that CCS will be working on a ‘bare-bones budget’. Smith also said that in order to offset the difference, they would need to pull $4 million from the CCS Reserve Investment account. He talked to Corey Blankenship, EBCI Secretary of Treasury, who said that was an option if the school could find no more cuts.

The Board then discussed the need to be patient as the situation progresses. They talked about options for finding cuts, and what items were untouchable. There was a conversation about the importance of annual bonuses and other incentives that they wished to maintain for the upcoming year.

There was an extensive consent agenda for this meeting, with 97 resolutions up for vote. This did not include three items that were approved via email poll the week prior. Among the 100 resolutions, 88 were approved and 12 were pulled for discussion. Of the 12 pulled resolutions, 11 were killed and one was tabled. Chair Thompson said the Board was voting down resolutions so that the positions could then be openly advertised.

Many of these resolutions had to do with renewing contract of CCS employees. Just over half of the resolutions had to do with hiring or renewing coaches and assistant coaches for the 2020-21 school year. The Board agreed that edits needed to be made to the review process for hiring and renewing coaches. Long brought up the Board’s request from last year to have reviews and recommendations done after the season. Doing this would make sure that coaches were hired well in advance and that there is plenty of time to advertise if needed.

Following the consent agenda, the Board moved to approve the revised LEA assurances that Beverly Payne presented. She said that when she was given the assurances earlier in the year, the numbers were incorrect. Payne said that she did not received the revised assurances until the week on this meeting.

There was one walk-in resolution. It was passed and approved a new art teacher for Cherokee Elementary School, pending a drug test and a background check.

The first item under new business was to vote upon the Cherokee Boys Club contract for 2020-21. This contract is regarding administrative services only. The Board approved this new deal.

Next, they reviewed the details for the Disabilities Education Act Part B Supplemental Funds. Simply, the Board needed to approve the use of the funds and agree that the money was to be used for the specific purpose of disability education.

The final major topic of discussion was the remote learning plan. This is a working document that creates guidelines for a potential scenario of at-home education due to the current pandemic. Payne said that the plan addresses online learning, as well as the need to assist in that. This would include providing Wi-Fi hotspots and internet hub locations. She said that this plan will be consistently adjusting in order to meet the needs of everyone.

Superintendent Murray had discussed the future of the 2020 school year earlier in the meeting.

“I’ve sent you everything I could on the state’s plans of re-entry, on what we’re talking about for re-entry, and we’re all praying daily that we can re-enter in August and that we can figure out some way to get through this,” said Murray.

“The Governor is supposed to announce something in July, and the superintendents are pressing him to announce that early in July…if you noticed, there was a Plan A, B, and C. ‘Plan A’ being sort of the measures we’re taking with social distancing, washing hands, all the things that you see…most superintendents are saying that ‘Plan B’ is literally impossible to pull off. Which means you can run at 50 percent capacity; it means you put 11 people in a bus. It would be difficult. Most superintendents are saying give us Plan A and let us work through this thing until you get a cure or go ahead and call Plan C early so we can focus on doing what we can remotely.”

Payne and the Board said that a draft of the plan would soon be made public, and that input from the community is highly encouraged. They wish to create the best resource for everyone that might be affected, and that means as much communication as possible.

The next meeting of the CCS Board of Education is tentatively set for July 20. There is a chance they will meet on July 7 if the need arises.

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