Former Sequoyah High School football coach Brent Scott, shown here during a 2007 game, has filed a wrongful termination suit, along with former Assistant Athletic Director Dale Miller, against the Cherokee Nation. In October, the Oklahoma Secondary Schools Activities Association ruled Scott and eight SHS football players ineligible to participate with the team for rules violations regarding summer camps. MARK DREADFULWATER/CHEROKEE PHOENIX

2 terminated Sequoyah employees file suit

Larry Grigg, former Sequoyah High School boys basketball coach and athletic director, instructs his players during a 2007 game. Grigg was recently terminated from Sequoyah Schools along with former Assistant Athletic Director Dale Miller and former Sequoyah football coach Brent Scott. Scott and Miller have filed wrongful termination suits. TRAVIS SNELL/CHEROKEE PHOENIX
Larry Grigg, former Sequoyah High School boys basketball coach and athletic director, instructs his players during a 2007 game. Grigg was recently terminated from Sequoyah Schools along with former Assistant Athletic Director Dale Miller and former Sequoyah football coach Brent Scott. Scott and Miller have filed wrongful termination suits. TRAVIS SNELL/CHEROKEE PHOENIX
BY TESINA JACKSON
Reporter
01/15/2013 08:37 AM
TAHLEQUAH, Okla. – Former Sequoyah High School employees Brent Scott and Dale Miller have filed a wrongful termination lawsuit in Cherokee Nation District Court against SHS Superintendent Leroy Qualls and the CN after receiving notifications of their firings on Dec. 7.

“They were given a 30-day notice and their employee ended on Jan. 7,” former Principal Chief Chad Smith, the plaintiffs’ attorney, said.

According to court documents filed on Dec. 21, the plaintiffs allege Qualls, who signed the termination letters, violated their rights to due process by “terminating their employment without cause.”

Qualls declined to comment due to the pending litigation.

Court documents state that Qualls did not consult or get the consent or approval of the SHS board of education to terminate the plaintiffs as required by CN law and that he breached employment agreements with the plaintiffs by failing to perform in good faith.

“They have a constitutional right to due process and pre-termination hearings,” Smith said.

Scott, who was the head football coach; Miller, the former assistant athletic director; and former Athletic Director Larry Griggs, who is not part of the suit, were placed on administrative leave after the Oklahoma Secondary School Activities Association declared in October that 12 football players played during the season while ineligible. The OSSAA decision forced Sequoyah to forfeit all nine regular season victories, its district title and its spot in the Class 3A football playoffs.

Scott was scheduled to appear before the OSSAA board on Jan. 9 for a reinstatement hearing, but it was continued to February.

The OSSAA declared the players and Scott ineligible in October because in the summers of 2009 to 2012 Sequoyah paid for players to attend sports camps, a violation of OSSAA rules. Eleven of the 12 players were later reinstated to play the next season’s sports. However, quarterback Brayden Scott, Brent’s son, was not reinstated.

Scott was hired as head football coach on Aug. 9, 2004. Miller was hired on March 16, 1992, and Grigg was hired on Aug. 4, 1997.

Smith said Scott and Miller aren’t currently working. The Cherokee Phoenix attempted to contact Grigg but was unsuccessful.

Smith also filed a temporary injunction motion, which if granted, would prohibit the school “from terminating the plaintiffs employment until their case may be heard on the merits.”

The temporary injunction hearing was scheduled for Jan. 2 but was continued until Feb. 6.

“We should have a full hearing on whether Qualls had the authority to fire them,” Smith said. “My request is to keep them (Miller and Scott) on the payroll.”

Nothing has been scheduled in another wrongful termination case filed by three other SHS former employees against the CN administration.

Plaintiffs Geary Don Crofford, Teresia Knott and Louie Jackson filed a suit on Nov. 2 in the District Court against Principal Chief Bill John Baker, Chief of Staff Chuck Hoskin Sr. and Education Services Director Dr. Neil Morton after being laid off during a June reorganization of the school.

“We intend on winning all of these cases,” CN Attorney General Todd Hembree said. “The Sequoyah High School employees that were laid off and/or terminated, we did so within the Cherokee Nation policy, procedures and law and we look forward to winning these cases.”

Crofford, former dean of academics; Knott, former dean of leadership; and Jackson, former dean of students, were laid off along with five other Sequoyah employees. Two of the eight employees have been rehired in different positions at Sequoyah.

“They have the right to file their suit,” Hembree said. “I’ve never begrudged anyone from having their day of court when they think they have been wronged, but in this instance they haven’t been. It was a decision that was made, like I said, in accordance with the policies and procedures of the Cherokee Nation, but I don’t think any more or less of them for bringing their day in court.”

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 TESINA JACKSON
Reporter
10/28/2014 01:30 PM
TAHLEQUAH, Okla. – The Cherokee Nation’s College Resource Center is looking to expand the Cherokee Promise Scholarship Program to Connors State College in Warner. Dr. Neil Morton, CN Education Services senior advisor, confirmed the possible partnership between the tribe and the college during the Tribal Council’s Education and Culture Committee meeting on Sept. 15. CN Communications officials said Jennifer Pigeon, CRC interim director, declined to comment because details are still being worked on between Connors and the tribe. Connors State College also declined to comment. Under the current criteria for the scholarships, which are available at Northeastern State and Rogers State universities, students selected for the program take Cherokee classes and experience on-campus living together. Selected students each receive a $2,000 CN scholarship and Native American Housing and Self Determination Act-funded housing each semester. During their time at school, the Cherokee Promise scholars are expected to bond during activities as well as study together in cultural education, Cherokee language and college strategies classes. Scholars will also participate in monthly community service activities and, as they advance in the program, act as mentors to incoming freshman. Recipients have also been required to fulfill 20 hours of community service. Five of those hours must be with the other scholar students. When the program started three years ago at NSU, the CRC looked for a university to initiate the program by looking at current CN scholarship students and found that most attended NSU. In 2013, the CRC expanded the program to RSU so more students could apply for the opportunity to receive money for college tuition. For more information, call the CRC at 918-453-5000, ext. 7054.
BY ASSOCIATED PRESS
10/24/2014 01:24 PM
WINSLOW, Ariz. (AP) – On a desert outpost miles from the closest paved road, Navajo students at the Little Singer Community School gleefully taste traditional fry bread during the school’s heritage week. “It reminds us of the Native American people a long time ago,” says a smiling 9-year-old, Arissa Chee. The cheer comes in the midst of dire surroundings: Little Singer, like so many of the 183 Indian schools overseen by the federal government, is verging on decrepit. The school, which serves 81 students, consists of a cluster of rundown classroom buildings containing asbestos, radon, mice, mold and flimsy outside door locks. The newest building, a large, white monolithic dome that is nearly 20 years old, houses the gym. On a recent day, students carried chairs above their heads while they changed classes, so they would have a place to sit. These are schools, says Interior Secretary Sally Jewell, whose department is responsible for them, “that you or I would not feel good sending our kids to, and I don’t feel good sending Indian kids there, either.” Federally owned schools for Native Americans on reservations are marked by remoteness, extreme poverty and few construction dollars. The schools serve about 48,000 children, or about 7 percent of Indian students, and are among the country’s lowest performing. At Little Singer, less than one-quarter of students were deemed proficient in reading and math on a 2012-2013 assessment. The Obama administration is pushing ahead with a plan to improve the schools that gives tribes more control. But the endeavor is complicated by disrepair of so many buildings, not to mention a federal legacy dating to the 19th century that for many years forced Native American children to attend boarding schools. Little Singer was the vision in the 1970s of a medicine man of the same name who wanted local children educated in the community. Students often come from families struggling with domestic violence, alcoholism and a lack of running water at home, so nurturing is emphasized. The school provides showers, along with shampoo and washing machines. Conflicts and discipline problems are resolved with traditional “peacemaking” discussions, and occasionally the use of a sweat lodge. Principal Etta Shirley’s day starts at 6 a.m., when on her way to work, she picks up kids off the bus routes. Because there’s no teacher housing, a caravan of teachers commutes together about 90 minutes each morning on barely passable dirt roads. All this, to teach in barely passable quarters. “We have little to work with, but we make do with what we have,” says Verna Yazzie, a school board member. The school is on the government’s priority list for replacement. It’s been there since at least 2004. The 183 schools are spread across 23 states and fall under the jurisdiction of the Interior Department’s Bureau of Indian Education. They are in some of the most out-of-the-way places in America; one is at the bottom of the Grand Canyon, reachable by donkey or helicopter. Most are small, with fewer than 150 students. Native Americans perform better in schools that are not overseen by the federal bureau than in schools that are, national and state assessments show. Overall, they trail their peers in an important national assessment and struggle with a graduation rate of 68 percent. President Barack Obama visited Standing Rock Reservation in North Dakota in June, where he announced the school improvement plan.
BY WILL CHAVEZ
Senior Reporter
10/24/2014 08:35 AM
TAHLEQUAH, Okla. – Cherokee Nation citizen Sarah Ferrell is enjoying her first year of college at Northeastern State University in Tahlequah. The 18-year-old honor student is attending on a Gates Millennium Scholars Scholarship. She said her father encouraged her to apply for the scholarship, which is given annually to only 1,000 students from throughout the United States. Ferrell said she did not have high expectations of winning the scholarship, which pays for up to 10 years of college. “A bunch of my friends applied for it, and they all kept getting rejection letters and I felt really bad,” she said. The scholarship was established in 1999 by the Bill & Melinda Gates Foundation to provide outstanding American Indian/Alaska Native, African American, Asian Pacific Islander American and Hispanic American students with an opportunity to complete an undergraduate and graduate college education in any discipline area of interest. Ferrell said having the scholarship relieves the pressure of worrying about how to pay for school. “My friends talk about always having to deal with loans and how they’re going to pay it. I don’t have to worry about that,” she said. At Tahlequah High School, she played soccer and was a part of the National Honor Society. One of her long-time interests may surprise some people – she is skilled at shooting a traditional Cherokee bow. “I’ve never shot a compound (bow) or anything. It’s always traditional. My grandpa made them, and I’ve been doing it (shooting) since I was little,” she said. She said if she had to hunt game with a bow and arrow to survive, she could do it. At NSU, she has joined the Sigma Sigma Sigma sorority and is concentrating on her studies. After completing her undergraduate studies, she plans to enroll in graduate school. “I don’t want just four years. I want more than four years,” she said. She admitted she has a tough time with her science classes but does well in her math classes. She is still is considering a career in the medical field, and understands a medical degree will require science classes. Recently, Ferrell was the only Cherokee student selected to the American Indian Center’s “All Native American Academic Team.” Each year only 10 American Indian/Alaska Native students from across the United States are selected based on academic achievement, honors and awards, leadership and community service. Each student is given a monetary award that may be spent at the student’s discretion. “I had to have a lot of volunteer activities and a bunch of leadership roles, and I listed the stuff I had done through the Cherokee Nation,” Ferrell said of the application process. The objectives of the ANAAT is to increase awareness of academic achievement of Indian high school seniors among their peers, Indian Country and the public; to increase recognition of Indian student success and capabilities as a positive motivation for pursuing academic excellence and higher education; and to increase academic achievement and role models as positive influences in Indian Country. The program also means to increase teacher, administrator, parent and community involvement by recommending, nominating and supporting student participation and to increase student participation in high school academic programs and the pursuit of higher education. Ferrell said she felt good about her application to the ANAAT but still wasn’t sure she would be selected to the team because she faced a lot of competition. “I didn’t really think I’d get it because so many people apply for it,” she said.
BY TESINA JACKSON
Reporter
10/23/2014 10:52 AM
TAHLEQUAH, Okla. – The Talking Leaves Job Corps recently reached its 35th year with the Cherokee Nation. “The (federal) Job Corps program allows for the opportunity to improve many lives on a daily basis and has been doing so for the last 50 years,” Jay Littlejohn, TLJC director, said. As part of President Lyndon B. Johnson’s War on Poverty, the Job Corps program started in 1964 to provide a no-cost education and career technical training for low-income young people ages 16-24. The program enrolls nearly 60,000 students annually at 125 Job Corps centers across the country and, since opening the program has trained more than 2.7 million people. The TLJC was established in 1978 at Northeastern State University. It later moved to the CN Annex Building in 1991 before moving to its current location northeast of the W.W. Keeler Tribal Complex in 1994. “With the Cherokee Nation as our contractor and the support of Career Services Executive Director Diane Kelley serving as the corporate liaison, our program is able to thrive and prepare students for the workforce so they may find meaningful employment,” Littlejohn said. Job Corps is the nation’s largest and oldest federally funded career training and education program. Career training areas at TLJC include office administration, certified clinical medical aide, certified nursing assistant, culinary arts and electrical wiring and facilities maintenance. By participating in the work-based learning program, students are provided hands-on experience while spending time in a real work environment. The program provides students with opportunities to prepare for high-skilled careers while making successful transitions from training to the workplace. Students start with classwork and then they can go into the field of their choice. Students must receive 400 hours of training. “I’ve been the center director at Talking Leaves since 2009 and am very proud to say that since then we have had over 1,200 students complete a trade and nearly 900 students receive their GED,” Littlejohn said. “We look forward to the next 35 years of success.”
BY TESINA JACKSON
Reporter
10/23/2014 08:24 AM
TAHLEQUAH, Okla. – After starting construction in August, Cherokee Nation officials said the new stoplight at Sequoyah High School’s entrance was expected to be complete by the end of October. “It’s very important for Cherokee Nation to keep the students, parents and faculty and staff safe as they travel through this intersection,” Michael Lynn, CN Roads Department director, said. The CN Roads Department received $525,000 from Federal Highway Administration’s Tribal Transportation Program safety funds in 2013 to improve highways on tribal lands. With those funds, the department planned to install the four-way stoplight at the busy intersection of U.S. Hwy 62 and Coffee Hollow Road, with the cooperation of the Oklahoma Department of Transportation. “There are over 16,000 vehicles a day that travel across U.S. 62, about 1,800 cars that travel into Sequoyah High School at any point in time depending on activities going on at the school,” Lynn said. The funds were given to add signal lights, better signage, turning lanes and improved acceleration and deceleration lanes to the intersection, which is the entrance to Sequoyah Schools, the CN Charter Immersion School, Head Start and Early Childhood Center in Cherokee County. Before the stoplight, CN citizen Colleen Daugherty, who has a daughter in Head Start, said although she doesn’t have to pick up her child from Head Start that often, when she did she would notice how dangerous the intersection became. “Traffic backs up. You have a really hard time turning left (in and out of the school), so I think the stoplight is a very beneficial thing, and I will be able to turn left (into the school) in the morning when I’m dropping her off,” she said. Lynn said during the past 10 years, there have been approximately 15 accidents at that intersection but no fatalities. “We’re working to improve the safety of this intersection to reduce that number,” he said. This is the fist time the Roads Department has been awarded this grant. The Tribal Transportation Program was established to address transportation needs of tribal governments throughout the United States. As of Oct. 21, traffic lights were being installed at the four-way intersection. Lynn said that once installation was complete, incidental work was still needed such as sod, striping, general cleanup and traffic light activation. Roads Department officials said they still expected the intersection work to be complete by the end of October.
BY STAFF REPORTS
10/21/2014 10:16 AM
MUSKOGEE, Okla. – Bacone College’s Art Department recently received a vintage 30-foot-by-64-foot Whelan Press from Cherokee artist Sallyann Paschall. The press now resides in the William McCombs Hall and is valued at approximately $3,000. According to a Bacone College press release, the Whelan Press is an etching press system that “implements 21st century design and manufacturing techniques as a means of answering the creative needs and safety concerns of artists and printmaking labs.” The press is able to create various pieces, such as reliefs, monotypes and etchings among other pieces. Bacone College Director of Art Tony Tiger said he is grateful for the donation. “We’re glad to see students express themselves creatively through art,” he said. “We are also developing better methods to help guide students to success.” For more information, email Tony Tiger at <a href="mailto: tigert@bacone.edu">tigert@bacone.edu</a>.