Published On: Tue, May 4th, 2021

CCS School Board discusses Cherokee culture in the classroom

 

By JONAH LOSSIAH

One Feather Staff

 

The Cherokee Central Schools (CCS) Board of Education welcomed Heath Robertson to their meeting on Monday, May 3 to discuss his ‘decolonization research’.

Robertson, who is a history teacher at Cherokee High School, has spent additional time this school year surveying the community and implementing Cherokee history and culture into one of his American history courses.

This project has been used to gauge the interest and satisfaction with the amount of Cherokee culture that is implemented at CCS. Robertson said that his findings from the community were overwhelmingly in support of the idea of having it in the school curriculum and for kids to learn more about their culture. The question of how much was currently being learned was less convincing, and this is something that bothers Robertson.

The Board approved, before the Fall semester, to allow Robertson to practice this process of implementing Cherokee history along with US history for one of his 11th-grade classes. This involved Robertson giving a pre-test and post-test specifically on the Cherokee portions of the class.

Robertson said there was a dramatic improvement in this knowledge upon completing the class, and it seemed to affect the way the students saw their culture in a historical context. He discussed an extreme example of a student before the class stating that learning the culture was pointless because it was a ‘dead culture.’ By the end of the course, he received no negative responses to the importance of learning Cherokee history.

After he gave his presentation, the Board had an open discussion about what to do with the information Robertson had gathered. Secretary Tara Reed-Cooper was adamant that this sort of class should be required learning at Cherokee Central Schools.

Superintendent Michael Murray said they had the freedom to implement a lot into the curriculum, but that a decision like that needs to be weighed with how it will affect the learning in other areas. Robertson agreed that this was something that needed careful balancing to implement correctly.

Robertson also said this was not a report to describe what CCS was doing wrong, but to give insight on community interest in a project like this. He said that he was encouraged by the results of this small sample size, and that he was excited to see what could be done at a school moving forward.

The next guest to the meeting was CCS senior Shalyn Barker, who was coming to see the Board to discuss her winning the Park Scholarship to N.C. State University. This is a full scholarship to the university. Barker was one of more than 2,000 students that were nominated for this scholarship, and only 39 were awarded with this honor. Shalyn is a descendent of the EBCI and resides in the Tow String community.

Following their guests, the Board moved to pass the consent agenda. This was done so unanimously, putting forth the following:

  • Richard Wiggins be allowed to serve as a bus monitor for Cherokee Central Schools after school program. He is a current bus driver with Cherokee Boys Club.
  • William Phillips be allowed to serve as a bus monitor for Cherokee Central Schools after school program. He is a current bus driver with Cherokee Boys Club.
  • Jennifer Welch be allowed to serve as a bus monitor for Cherokee Central Schools after school program. She is a current bus driver with Cherokee Boys Club.
  • Candie Teesatuskie be allowed to serve as a bus monitor for Cherokee Central Schools after school program. She is a current bus driver with Cherokee Boys Club.
  • Miranda Stamper be allowed to volunteer with the Track program for school year 2020-21.

The final piece of business discussed in open session was brought forth by Superintendent Murray. He said that updated COVID-19 protocols would be announced on Tuesday, May 4. He said the changes would follow recent announcements made by the CDC and Principal Chief Richard G. Sneed, stating that individuals at the school would not need to wear facemasks while outside of buildings. The other major change states that the ‘social distance’ measure would formally be reduced from six feet to three feet.

The Monday, May 3 meeting of the CCS Board of Education was called to order at 4:45 p.m. with Chairperson Jennifer Thompson; Vice Chair Isaac Long; Secretary Tara Reed-Cooper; Board members Gloria Griffin, Karen French-Browning, and Regina Ledford Rosario; Wolftown Tribal Council Representative Chelsea Saunooke; Superintendent Michael Murray; Vice Superintendent Beverly Payne; HR Director Heather Driver; and School Board Assistant Sunnie Clapsaddle all in attendance.

The next meeting of the Board is scheduled for Monday, May 17 at 4:45 p.m. The meeting will be held at the Joyce Dugan Center for Cultural Arts on the Cherokee Central Schools campus.

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