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 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>.
BY ASSOCIATED PRESS
12/02/2014 10:44 AM
WINSLOW, Ariz. (AP) – The federal government finances 183 schools and dormitories for Native American children on or near reservations in 23 states. The schools are some of the nation’s lowest performing. An effort is underway to improve them. Five things to know about the Interior Department’s Bureau of Indian Education schools: <strong>THE IMPROVEMENT PLAN</strong> The Obama administration wants to turn day-to-day operations of more of the schools over to tribes, bring in more board-certified teachers, upgrade Internet access and make it easier to hire teachers and buy textbooks. The plan also seeks to provide more support to schools to advance American Indian languages and culture. But many the schools are in poor physical condition. An estimated $1.3 billion is needed to replace or refurbish rundown facilities, and not much money is coming from Washington. There also is much mistrust of the federal government, given the history of forced assimilation. <strong>TAINTED HISTORY</strong> The system of government boarding schools to educate Native American students was established in the 19th century as part of an assimilation policy to “eradicate Native cultures and languages through Western education,” according to a government study group. One of the first to be run directly by Washington was the Carlisle Indian Industrial School in Pennsylvania, which opened in 1879. It was founded by Richard Henry Pratt, an Army officer who said, “Kill the Indian in him, and save the man,” according to Jon Reyhner, an education professor at Northern Arizona University. Many commissions have called for improvements to Indian schools. One, in the 1920s, said the students should be treated as “human beings.” In 1966, what was then called the Rough Rock Demonstration School opened in Chinle, Arizona, a prototype of the schools that are today owned by the federal government but run by tribes. <strong>MODERN HISTORY</strong> While about 7 percent of Indian students attend a bureau school today, the great majority are at traditional public schools. Only a few bureau schools fully immerse students in a Native American language or culture. Others offer them in lesser degrees. But this type of instruction is a draw for parents. About 6,900 students live in dorms operated by the bureau. <strong>ONE SCHOOL</strong> Little Singer Community School outside Winslow, Arizona, was the vision in the 1970s of a medicine man who longed for area children to attend a local school. Today, it serves 81 students and school leaders emphasize a nurturing environment. But the rundown classroom buildings have problems with asbestos, radon, mice, mold and flimsy outside door locks. The school has been on a government priority list since at least 2004 for new construction. <strong>PERFORMANCE OF NATIVE AMERICAN STUDENTS</strong> Indian students overall score higher overall on assessments than those who attend bureau schools. Native American students overall have high school graduation rates that are lower than the student population as a whole, 68 percent compared with 81 percent, according to government figures from 2011-2012. They also lag peers on a national assessment known as the “nation’s report card” and have lower rates of college completion. In a 2011 survey conducted as part of the national assessment, 56 percent of Native American and Alaska Native students reported knowing some or a lot about their tribe or group’s history. The rest reported knowing little or nothing.