Education Services to address student dropout rate

BY TESINA JACKSON
Reporter
12/22/2011 08:25 AM
TAHLEQUAH, Okla. – The Cherokee Nation lost more than $500,000 in scholarship money after losing 318 CN scholarship recipients during the 2010-11 academic school year, the period for which the latest figures are available.

“We lost about 318 students between fall (20)10 and the end of spring (20)11,” Education Services Group Leader Dr. Neil Morton said. “Those students would average, because some are graduate students or part-time, they would average about $1,600 a piece. So we take 318 times $1,600 and that would be the actual loss. And we call it a loss because it is a loss to us unless the students transfer out of state or unless they drop out for a while and then come back and finish up their degree.”

In fall 2010, the tribe supplied scholarships to 2,732 students ranging from undergraduate freshman level to graduate school level. CN officials said the largest number of dropouts is at the freshman level, losing 185 freshmen during the 2010-11 year.

“Students have a difficult time managing their time when they enter college, and for most of them it’s their first time away from home, and it’s just a big step for that freshman student,” Morton said.

Education records show that 89 sophomores and 44 juniors who received CN scholarships dropped out during the 2010-11 academic year. Once the students become seniors, the dropout numbers are slim, Morton said.

Some CN scholarship funds come from the Bureau of Indian Affairs, but most of it comes from tribal funds, Morton said. Once the student drops out, CN doesn’t get that money back.
“If the student drops out before the legal dropout period of the university, then we get the balance of funds returned,” Morton said. “Usually the student drops out after the second nine weeks, after the refund policy has already elapsed by the university.”
After conducting a phone survey of some of the scholarship recipients, Education Services found that the biggest reason for students dropping out was bad grades.
“The other reason that ranked high enough that it’s a concern of ours, they just didn’t turn in their papers for second semester, didn’t turn in their community service hours or forgot to send a transcript in and therefore did not receive funding,” Morton said.

Other reasons included students obtaining full-time employment and family illnesses and issues.

To address these issues and keep students in school, Education Services officials plan to assign a contact person to each scholarship recipient and will be visiting several universities throughout the spring 2012 semester.

“That will be a new service that we’re providing so that students who are scholarship students or students who are just interested in scholarships…there will be a person who they can talk to on a one-to-one basis,” Morton said. “And we are asking the universities that comprise the largest number of our enrollment in Oklahoma, their counseling centers to see if they can legally provide us documentation on the students’ progress. We would like to be a part of their intervention strategy.”

Morton anticipates that with the efforts that have been initiated the dropout rate will be significantly less.

“We think this needs to be a total effort on part of the Cherokee Nation and individual employees that know students that are in college to encourage them to stay because that first year is a social adjustment as well as an academic adjustment,” Morton said.

tesina-jackson@cherokee.org • 918-453-5000, ext. 6139

About the Author
Born in Dayton, Ohio, Tesina first started working as an intern for the Cherokee Phoenix after receiving the John Shurr Journalism Award in 2009. Later that year, Tesina received her bachelor’s degree in journalism from Ball State University in Muncie, Ind., and in 2010 joined the Phoenix staff as a reporter.    

In 2006, Tesina received an internship at The Forum newspaper in Fargo, N.D., after attending the American Indian Journalism Institute at the University of South Dakota. She also attended the AIJI summer program in 2007 and in 2009 she participated in the Native American Journalists Association student projects as a reporter. Tesina is currently a member of NAJA and the Investigative Reporters & Editors organization.
TESINA-JACKSON@cherokee.org • 918-453-5000 ext. 6139
Born in Dayton, Ohio, Tesina first started working as an intern for the Cherokee Phoenix after receiving the John Shurr Journalism Award in 2009. Later that year, Tesina received her bachelor’s degree in journalism from Ball State University in Muncie, Ind., and in 2010 joined the Phoenix staff as a reporter. In 2006, Tesina received an internship at The Forum newspaper in Fargo, N.D., after attending the American Indian Journalism Institute at the University of South Dakota. She also attended the AIJI summer program in 2007 and in 2009 she participated in the Native American Journalists Association student projects as a reporter. Tesina is currently a member of NAJA and the Investigative Reporters & Editors organization.

Education

BY STAFF REPORTS
12/19/2014 09:11 AM
TULSA, Okla. – Cherokee Nation employees are helping preserve and further the tribe’s heritage by bringing it to the next generation. Employee volunteers returned to Tulsa Global Alliance’s multicultural event, Kids’ World, to help local children experience Cherokee culture and language. “Our employees take great pride in sharing their Cherokee heritage,” Principal Chief Bill John Baker said. “We hope the thousands of grade school children who came through the Cherokee section at Kids’ World were entertained, and more importantly walked away with more knowledge about our rich history and culture.” More than 8,000 students, ranging in grades from early elementary to junior high, visited the large area dedicated specifically to the Cherokee culture. The area featured eight interactive booths, each focused on different aspects of Cherokee culture such as general history, language, basket weaving, pottery, clothing, games, blowguns, as well as a gift shop provided by The George M. Murrell Home. Cherokee Nation Cultural Tourism, Cherokee Heritage Center and CN Johnson-O’Malley staff, who all took part in volunteer efforts, coordinated the partnership. Other employees from the CN and Cherokee Nation Businesses also volunteered at the bi-annual event. “Kids World is always a great experience. I'm glad we were able to share our Cherokee culture with so many children,” Deborah Fritts, a CNCT employee volunteer, said. “I enjoyed teaching children, from three year olds to teens, but also their parents, grandparents and teachers who were with them.” Additionally, Cherokee presenters and storytellers performed on the main stage throughout the four-day event, which took place at The Exchange Center in The Expo Square of the Tulsa County Fair Grounds. Students who visited the CN received an Osiyo pencil and stamp in their Kids’ World passport. Educators received a tote bag filled with educational materials to help further students’ understanding of Cherokee culture. Kids’ World is a multicultural event hosted by Tulsa Global Alliance. Its mission is to promote understanding and peace by creating an inspiring, entertaining and educational international children’s event that increases tolerance and appreciation of all cultures.
BY ASSOCIATED PRESS
12/10/2014 10:10 AM
OKLAHOMA CITY (AP) — The Oklahoma City school board has voted to remove the Redskins mascot at Capitol Hill High School. The board voted 8-0 Monday night to remove the mascot after hearing from students, teachers and a district official who said the nickname is offensive and harmful — especially to American Indian students. The Oklahoman reports that the meeting broke out in cheers, applause and hugs after the vote. District administrators will immediately eliminate the Redskins mascot. District spokeswoman Tierney Tinnin said a committee of students, alumni and community members will be chosen to select a new mascot by the end of the spring semester.
BY TESINA JACKSON
Reporter
12/09/2014 08:15 AM
TAHLEQUAH, Okla. – According to a report presented at the Sept. 25 Executive and Finance Committee meeting, Sequoyah High School’s enrollment has increased in recent years while its Bureau of Indian Education allocations have decreased. Dr. Neil Morton, Cherokee Nation Education Services senior advisor, said in the 2011-12 school year, SHS enrolled 347 students while BIE allocated $384,000. He said in the 2012-13 school year, SHS enrolled 370 students while the BIE allocated $371,000. And in the 2013-14 school year, SHS enrolled 377 students while the BIE allocated $363,000, he said. In a Nov. 9 email, Morton stated the BIE funding formula is based on three-year enrollment averages. “Because we are taking more students, our enrollment grows each year,” he wrote. “Since funding is based on an average of the last three years, funding has not yet caught up to our actual enrollment need. Since the funding model is an average of the three previous years, that means next year there will be more funding, and more the next year after that, as long as we continue to add more students.” He said Sequoyah had 149 freshmen applicants for the 2014-15 school year compared to 108 in 2013-14. A report shows in the 2011-12 school year SHS was awarded more than $3.9 million from the federal Indian School Equalization Program. The following year SHS received more than $3.6 million, and in the 2013-14 school year it received more than $3.4 million. During an Aug. 28 Tribal Council meeting, SHS received a fiscal year 2014 budget modification under Legislative Act 23-14 that transferred more than $1.2 million to Sequoyah’s administration and more than $400,000 for SHS facilities projects. “Our school building at Sequoyah is also aging, which also requires more money each year to maintain and keep it running,” Morton said on Nov. 19. “For these combined reasons, we asked Tribal Council to transfer $1.2 million to maintain a balanced budget at Sequoyah." Morton said on Sept. 25 that Sequoyah’s deficit started when its new gym was built and that people mistakenly think of Sequoyah as a relatively new school. “Right now it’s at the time where major maintenance kicks in,” he said. “So we spent a great deal of money on what we normally consider a new school. We are using facilities at Sequoyah that are older than any other school in our 14-county area. We spend more on utilities for that new gym then we do most of campus. That thing is hard to cool, hard to heat. That’s a lot of space.” According to a report showing federal funding for SHS facilities, in the 2011-12 school year SHS facilities were funded more than $1.1 million. In the 2012-13 school year they was funded more than $990,000 and in the 2013-14 school year they were funded more than $920,000. On Nov. 9, Morton said the cost to run the school in FY 2014 was $5.5 million and $4 million in FY 2013. The Phoenix asked for an itemized list of how much funds are distributed to each area of the school and spent but did not receive it as of publication. According to CN financial reports, on Sept. 30, 2011, SHS had a surplus of more than $1 million. On Sept. 30, 2013, the surplus had decreased to $79,000. The Phoenix asked why there was a decrease in the surplus and where the money was spent but did not receive a response. According to Morton’s Sept. 25 report, there has been an overall decline of funding allocations within instruction, residential, language, gifted and talented and special education. “We just simply had more costs than we had student-based allocations to pay for. We did not cut the educational program. In fact, two years ago we added to the curriculum,” Morton said. “Like most schools in Oklahoma, we wound up in the hole. We’re trying to overcome that by doing a little switching of responsibility. Cherokee Nation facilities are managing the facilities of Sequoyah now so that we could buy in larger lots and then separate out by budgets. We’re saving some money there.” Morton said the school had 29 GSA vehicles from previous years that are being transferred out except for school buses. “Everywhere that we can see we can cut costs we are cutting costs.” However, Morton said no employees are losing jobs, no programs are being cut and the school has received $5.7 million for its 2015 allocation. “We will have other allocations that will be added to that for special projects,” he said. “So the picture for this year looks good. We will be able to regain in the some of the areas where we had deficits this year. Our goal this year is to at least break even. I don’t anticipate on having any carryover.”
BY STAFF REPORTS
12/08/2014 01:16 PM
TAHLEQUAH, Okla. – The Cherokee Nation’s first-ever traffic light project with the Oklahoma Department of Transportation is being touted a success by ODOT, city and tribal officials. ODOT Executive Director Mike Patterson visited Tahlequah on Dec . 4 to see the new traffic light at the U.S. Hwy 62 and Coffee Hollow Road intersection, where 11,000 drivers pass through daily. “I want to praise the Cherokee Nation and the city of Tahlequah for their community-mindedness and stepping up to make these safety improvements possible,” Patterson said. “ODOT has a great working relationship with the tribes and cities in eastern Oklahoma, and I believe that will continue as we partner on more transportation projects in the future.” The CN began project construction in July, and the traffic light was activated Nov. 18. “I truly believe this new traffic light is going to make a difference in the quality of life and safety of all drivers, but especially our Cherokee Nation students and employees,” Principal Chief Bill John Baker said. “I very much appreciate the partnership our roads department was able to have with the state’s transportation department, and how hardworking and diligent everyone was to see the project completed.” The intersection is the entrance to Sequoyah High School, Head Start, Cherokee Immersion Charter School and the Early Childhood Development Center. “My wife and I go through the intersection at a minimal four times a day, two in which our children are with us, and it used to be scary,” Howard Paden, parent of three girls, said. “Like most parents, we hoped that someone would put a traffic light up not only for safety but for convenience. Some days you had to wait at the intersection for 15 minutes, or chance trying to make a turn in oncoming traffic.” The Nation funded the project from a half-million-dollar grant from the Federal Highway Administration Tribal Transportation Program and the tribal Roads Department funded the remainder of the total $750,000 project cost. ODOT approved the plans and provided oversight. Tahlequah Mayor Jason Nichols said the traffic light doesn’t just help the CN. “We have had some emergency services that respond to accidents at this intersection, so anytime it can be made safer so that we don’t have to divert our resources outside the city, we’re happy,” Nichols said. “For anyone going in and out of the Cherokee Nation complex and the school, including a lot of Tahlequah residents, this light just makes the trip a lot smoother. It’s really a wonderful improvement for traffic on this south end of town.” In fiscal year 2014, the Nation completed 64.2 miles of road and bridge projects throughout the tribe’s 14-county jurisdiction. More than $13 million of tribal and federal dollars were used in the 28 projects. “As the legislative body of this tribe, our job is to allocate our resources to helping our people and improving roads and bridges, and the safety of busy intersections is always one of those priorities,” Tribal Council Speaker Tina Glory Jordan said. “We know this stoplight means a great deal to everyone, from Head Start teachers, Sequoyah bus drivers and residents headed to work every day.” For more information on the Roads Department, call 918-453-5731.
BY STAFF REPORTS
12/08/2014 10:28 AM
TAHLEQUAH, Okla. – Until Dec. 31, the Cherokee Nation Early Childhood Unit will be accepting applications for Early Head Start, ages 6 weeks to 3 years, and Head Start, ages 3 and 4, at all centers. Head Start is a free program for all qualifying families. Applications for children with special needs are encouraged. A copy of household income verification, the child’s state certified birth certificate, current immunization record, tribal citizenship or Certificate Degree of Indian Blood cards and the child’s Social Security card must be attached to the application to be considered for screening. For a list of center locations or to apply, contact the ECU office or download an application online at <a href="http://www.cherokee.org/Services/Education/HeadStart-EarlyChildhoodUnit.aspx" target="_blank">http://www.cherokee.org/Services/Education/HeadStart-EarlyChildhoodUnit.aspx</a>.
BY STAFF REPORTS
12/05/2014 12:00 PM
TAHLEQUAH, Okla. – On Dec. 11-12, the Sequoyah High School drama class will present a theatrical production of “Please Come Home for Christmas” at the SHS cafeteria. “I’m so excited to do another Christmas dinner show. We’re so thankful to have a community that supports the performing arts,” Amanda Ray, SHS drama teacher, said. “Last year, we had sold-out shows and this year, I’m sure we’ll have another great production.” The play focuses on keeping the true meaning of Christmas and how spending time with family and friends is the best gift. “Everyone is really excited and we rehearse every day after school. I know I’m especially excited because this is my last performance at Sequoyah before I graduate in December,” Sequoyah student Diamond Bailey, said. “The cast is really dedicated to making a great show.” Other Sequoyah students performing in the show consist of Garrett Million, Seif Drywater, Noah Scearce, Tyler VonHolt, Marissa Mitchell, Sara Cheater, Sharon Stanley, Ashley Anderson, Katelyn Morton and Savannah Edgar. The Thursday and Friday performances will begin at 6:30 p.m. and include a full turkey and dressing dinner with paid admission. Tickets are $5. For reservations, call Ray at 918-453-5156 or email <a href="mailto: amanda-ray@cherokee.org">amanda-ray@cherokee.org</a>.