http://www.cherokeephoenix.orgTribal Councilors and Sequoyah High School Principal Jolyn Choate join Principal Chief Bill John Baker as he signs into law a $10,000 base pay increase for certified teachers on March 12 at the W.W. Keeler Tribal Complex in Tahlequah. The increase will go to 45 teachers at the Cherokee Immersion Charter School and SHS. BRITTNEY BENNETT/CHEROKEE PHOENIX
Tribal Councilors and Sequoyah High School Principal Jolyn Choate join Principal Chief Bill John Baker as he signs into law a $10,000 base pay increase for certified teachers on March 12 at the W.W. Keeler Tribal Complex in Tahlequah. The increase will go to 45 teachers at the Cherokee Immersion Charter School and SHS. BRITTNEY BENNETT/CHEROKEE PHOENIX

Cherokee Nation OKs $10K raise for SHS, immersion teachers

Principal Chief Bill Baker proposed the teacher base pay increase legislation, which will give a $5,000 lump sump payment to certified teachers on March 29 for the current academic year and another $5,000 for teacher contracts on July 1 for the 2018-19 academic year. BRITTNEY BENNETT/CHEROKEE PHOENIX
Principal Chief Bill Baker proposed the teacher base pay increase legislation, which will give a $5,000 lump sump payment to certified teachers on March 29 for the current academic year and another $5,000 for teacher contracts on July 1 for the 2018-19 academic year. BRITTNEY BENNETT/CHEROKEE PHOENIX
Former Reporter
03/13/2018 05:00 PM
TAHLEQUAH – At the March 12 Tribal Council meeting, Principal Chief Bill John Baker signed into law a $10,000 pay increase for 45 certified teachers at the Cherokee Immersion Charter School and Sequoyah High School.

Teachers were expected to see a $5,000 lump sum for the current academic year with their March 29 checks, while another $5,000 is expected to appear in teacher contracts on July 1.

“Over the past decade the state of Oklahoma has made drastic budget cuts to public education,” Baker said. “Cherokee Nation is unwavering in its commitment to public schools, students and teachers. This pay increase reaffirms that commitment and, I hope, sends a message to state leaders that they should follow Cherokee Nation’s lead and raise pay for all certified teachers in the state.”

Jon Minor, a SHS teacher and assistant coach, said the raise was important. “The Cherokee Nation has been very supportive and proactive in the opportunities provided for our students, faculty, staff and administration at Sequoyah High School. We have multiple avenues and resources that Cherokee Nation brings into our school system, that allows us to teach and do our jobs more efficiently.”

Meda Nix, a fifth grade teacher at the immersion school, has taught at the school for seven years and was excited about the raise.

“People don’t realize how hard and mentally exhausting teaching can be and that it takes a special person to come in every day and put their heart and soul into it,” Nix said. “I want to thank the chief and Tribal Council for thinking of us and taking care of us.”

She said the increase is important for teacher retention and an incentive for others interested in teaching to obtain their certifications.

The raise was part of a budget modification that passed with a 14-1 vote. Tribal Councilor Janees Taylor voted against the legislation, and Tribal Councilors Rex Jordan and Wanda Hatfield were absent.

“As you know, that wasn’t the only thing in that budget modification, and so there were just some issues with it that I wasn’t real comfortable with, and that’s why I voted no,” Taylor said.

The raise will come from the Un-appropriated Reserves Fund, which Tribal Council Financial Oversight Executive Director Jody Reece called “General Fund carryover.” To cover the raise, the immersion school’s budget increased by $110,725, while Sequoyah’s increased by $371,591.

SHS Superintendent Leroy Qualls said earlier in the day that certified teachers are paid through a step program with the Bureau of Indian Education and do not receive an annual 3 percent raise that regular CN employees receive.

“That’s not true for the teachers because they are on contract,” he said. “They get a step each year, which is 300-something dollars.”

Oklahoma ranks 48th in the U.S. in terms of teacher salaries, according to a 2016 National Education Association study. In Oklahoma the average elementary teacher makes $41,150, while high school teachers make $42,460, according to a 2016 Bureau of Labor Statistics report.

Before the increase the average salary for certified teachers at the two schools was $42,815, according to CN Communications.

Earlier this year Oklahoma legislators proposed legislation to fund a $5,000 teacher pay increase, but it failed to garner the needed approval. As of publication, teachers around the state were planning a walkout on April 2 if the Legislature did not agree on funding an increase.

“We hope the state of Oklahoma looks at the Cherokee Nation as leaders in education, which they do and they should,” Secretary of State Chuck Hoskin Jr. said “The Legislature is in the midst of considering this at the moment, but we think the moment is now, and we think we can show some leadership. But first and foremost it’s because the teachers deserve the raise.”

Councilors also approved several trust-land projects, including approving 435 acres in Adair County and 160 acres in Sequoyah County. Tribal Councilor Frankie Hargis said there were “no immediate plans” for how the lands would be used.

In other business, legislators:

• Announced the groundbreaking of a casino on March 26 at the Cherokee Springs Plaza site,

• Increased the fiscal year 2018 capital budget by $1 million to $252 million, and

• Increased the FY 2018 operating budget by $5.76 million to $667.1 million.


07/17/2018 12:00 PM
ADA – For 70 years, campers representing more than 50 Indigenous tribal nations from across North America gather for Indian Falls Creek Baptist Assembly in Ada. This family camp provides Bible classes, training, a health fair, recreation, fellowship and worship services for all ages. The opportunity to attend with the entire family and people of all ages makes IFC an annual event for many churches. Some campers have attended IFC since childhood and now make it an annual tradition for their children and grandchildren. Prayer Walk Warriors start the morning early and join the daily sunrise service. Later in the week walkers and runners participate in the annual 5k Hot and Sweaty Run. More than 500 preschoolers and children attend classes and Vacation Bible School each day and campers 6 to 11 years old attend Children’s Church twice daily. Class sessions for youth, young adults and adults are also offered and vary in topics. A nursery is provided during morning youth and young adult services and evening family services. IFC officials said they want to meet the needs seen throughout Native American and First Nations communities by providing training that helps campers engage others in their communities. Suicide prevention, literacy training and health classes supplement the Biblical and leadership development training offered to campers. Other opportunities include blood donations and a bone marrow registry at the health fair. The Silver Fox Fellowship provides a time for senior campers to relax and meet in a cool place, if they are not watching or participating in recreational activities. Highlights during recreation are the watermelon eating contest, youth art contest, Bible drills, children’s Olympics, stickball games and the golden frybread/steaming meatpie contest. Each day, different Indian Nations are invited to sing traditional hymns in their tribal languages during the worship services. The 71st Indian Falls Creek meeting is July 29 through Aug. 2. For more information, visit <a href="" target="_blank"></a>.
07/17/2018 10:30 AM
TAHLEQUAH – The United Keetoowah Band will distribute clothing vouchers and gift cards for exclusive UKB students beginning at 10:30 a.m. to 2:30 p.m. on July 21 in the Education Building at 4547 S. Whitmore Lane. Students ages 4-12 will receive $100 vouchers and backpacks, while students ages 13-18 will receive $100 gift cards. Students must present their tribal ID card and proof of enrollment or last semester’s report card to receive funds, which can be used at Walmart to purchase items including clothing, shoes and school supplies. For students who cannot attend, vouchers and gift cards can be obtained by visiting the UKB offices beginning on July 23. Students ages 4-12 will need to visit the Henry Lee Doublehead Child Development Center at 18771 W. Keetoowah Circle. Students ages 13-18 will need to visit the Community Services building at 18263 W. Keetoowah Circle. District representatives can also obtain cards for students if needed. Parents and guardians can pass along the required verification items and district representatives will sign before returning all items to them. Disbursement of funds is also not dependent upon income guidelines. “We don’t income guideline it because it’s a one-time thing. It’s not a monthly program. We don’t do income guidelines, and the only goal of that is to help our children,” UKB Tribal Secretary Joyce Hawk said. The event coincides with the Keetoowah Strong event that will take place at 8 a.m. on July 21. Free physicals and haircuts will also be available for children.
Multimedia Producer – @cp_rgraham
07/17/2018 08:30 AM
TAHLEQUAH – Cherokee Nation citizen and a foreman for the Manhattan Construction Group, Kenny Foreman, led a group of CN leaders on a tour of the new Cherokee Casino Tahlequah construction job site on July 12 inside the Cherokee Springs Plaza. “The projects on track right now,” Foreman said. “We’re looking to be finished up and opened up in the spring of 2019. We’re at about 92,000 square feet and got a 1,000-seat convention center, which will be good for all of Tahlequah, not just the Cherokee Nation.” He said 70 percent of the construction money is going to Tribal Employment Rights Office vendors, who are certified to be Native American-owned and approved by the Tribal Council to do business with the tribe. Secretary of State Chuck Hoskin Jr., who was part of the tour group, along with Chief of Staff Chuck Hoskin and Tribal Councilor Rex Jordan, said he was pleased at the progress and happy about the number of Cherokees working at the job site. In a June report, there were 57 percent TERO-certified personnel working at the job site. “The new casino, which will have 525 games, a restaurant, a grab-and-go café, a live entertainment venue and a full service bar, will be over three times larger than the existing Cherokee Casino Tahlequah. That means 50 new jobs added to the 175 existing jobs for a total of 225. It’s a game changer for the Cherokee capital,” Hoskin said. Also included in the plans are 33,000 square feet of convention and meeting space, according to a previous Cherokee Phoenix story. The CN broke ground on March 26 on the new casino, which is expected to bring more entertainment, dining and convention options to the area. “We’ve taken one of the largest tracts in Tahlequah’s main corridor and are using it to grow the economy and create jobs,” Cherokee Nation Businesses CEO Shawn Slaton said. “We’ve attracted new restaurants and businesses and are now bringing first-class entertainment options to Cherokee Springs Plaza. We know this casino and economic development endeavor will have a lasting impact on the Cherokee Nation and the entire region.” The current casino is at 16489 Highway 62 and will be donated to the CN’s Cherokee Immersion Charter School to help expand language programs for the tribe’s youth. The CN broke ground on Cherokee Springs Plaza in 2014. The 154-acre retail, dining and entertainment development is next to Cherokee Springs Golf Course, the tribe’s 18-hole golf course. The plaza has since become home to a new auto dealership, the area’s first Taco Bueno, a Buffalo Wild Wings and a second Sonic Drive-In location. “We believe in making sound investments that have a lasting impact on the Cherokee Nation and the Cherokee people,” Principal Chief Bill John Baker said. “This new property will be a regional attraction for tourism and economic development and is a complement to the work happening at Cherokee Springs Plaza and all over the Tahlequah area.”
Multimedia Producer – @cp_rgraham
07/16/2018 12:00 PM
TAHLEQUAH - The Cherokee Nation’s Election commission held a special meeting on July 10 in the Cherokee Nation Election Commission building. Commissioners revised various segments of the EC bylaws, rules and regulations. The commission also discussed actions to be taken on the recent water damage to its headquarters. The commission then voted to allow EC Chairwoman Shawna Calico to vote on all motions. Before this decision, Calico only voted when votes ended in ties. Later Commissioner Carolyn Allen motioned for the commission to go into executive session after attorney Harvey Chaffin told the five commissioners he saw no need for executive session. Once the commission came out of the private discussion, Calico announced no action was taken during the executive session. The Cherokee Phoenix covered the event and produced the following video of the entire meeting, not including the executive session.
07/15/2018 02:00 PM
TULSA, Oklahoma (AP) — Activists in Oklahoma are looking to entrench the right to use marijuana in the state's constitution by promoting a pair of ballot measures. The Tulsa World reports that the first state question would classify marijuana as an "herbal drug" and amend the Oklahoma Constitution. The other initiative says a person 21 years or older can possess or consume up to two ounces of marijuana for personal use. Both were filed in April. Voters in Oklahoma backed the medicinal use of the drug last month. Yet, Isaac Caviness with Green the Vote says the two state questions being promoted are an "insurance policy" to make sure State Question 788 is not over regulated.
07/15/2018 08:00 AM
TULSA, Okla. (AP) — Oklahoma's 4.0 earthquakes are up significantly this year, but the overall rate of earthquakes is declining. Oklahoma has had six quakes of at least magnitude 4.0 halfway through this year, which is one more than all of last year. But the overall rate of earthquakes has declined, with 96 quakes of magnitude 3.0 or greater through June 30, compared with 144 at this point last year and 302 by the end of 2017, the Tulsa World reported. A magnitude 4.6 in April near Perry was the 12th largest in state history. Scientists are largely seeing earthquakes on unmapped faults that were activated in 2014 by wastewater injection, said state seismologist Jake Walter. Scientists are researching specific mechanisms by which the state's ongoing seismicity is triggered, he said. Wastewater can trigger the initial earthquakes, but quakes themselves can lead to more quakes. "So in some ways the wastewater injection has created a new paradigm that defies how we would categorize main shocks and aftershocks if this were a fault that had slipped in a more natural setting," he said. Walter said that Oklahoma's seismic risk appears to be similar to the latest hazard forecast put out by the U.S. Geological Survey in March. The agency calculated Oklahoma's short-term hazard levels to be similar to active regions in California. The chance of earthquake damage in high-hazard areas of Oklahoma this year ranges from 1 percent to 14 percent, "much higher" than most parts of the U.S.