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 STAFF REPORTS
03/25/2015 11:00 AM
RAPID CITY, S.D. – The American Indian Education Foundation has set April 4 as its student scholarship deadline. The AIEF seeks students of all ages who are focused on their educational goals and who demonstrate the ability to make positive change in their communities and in modern society. It expands opportunities for students to attend and remain in tribal or non-tribal colleges by providing educational leadership and networking services. Along with scholarships, AIEF also offers services such as the Tools of the Trade, Emergency Funds and School Supplies. Through Tools of the Trade, the AIEF offers small grants to vocational/technical schools so they can provide professional supplies to Native American students. The Emergency Funds service provides small grants to selected colleges, which can then assist students with expenses that might otherwise threaten their ability to stay in school. With its Schools Supplies service, the AIEF each fall distributes basic school supplies for young Native Americans in preschools, elementary schools and secondary schools serving reservations in the Northern Plains and Southwest. The program also helps vocational and technical schools provide professional supplies for Native American students who choose to learn a trade. The AIEF follows up on the School Supplies service by providing scholarships to Indian peoples pursuing higher education. The AIEF is one of America’s largest grantors of scholarships to Native Americans, supporting more than 225 students each year. For more information or to fill out a scholarship application, visit <a href="http://www.nrcprograms.org/site/PageServer?pagename=aief_index" target="_blank">http://www.nrcprograms.org/site/PageServer?pagename=aief_index</a>.
BY LENZY KREHBIEL-BURTON
Special Correspondent
03/24/2015 12:00 PM
OKLAHOMA CITY – Two schools in the Cherokee Nation brought home some new hardware in March. Within hours of each other, the girls basketball teams at Sequoyah High School and Locust Grove High School respectively won the Class 3A and 4A state titles on March 14 at Oklahoma City’s State Fair Arena. After losing their regular season finale at Fort Gibson, the Sequoyah Lady Indians rattled off seven straight postseason wins, including six by double digits, to earn the team’s first state title since 2007, when current Tulsa Shock guard Angel Goodrich led the Lady Indians to the third of their three consecutive titles. Pouring in 33 points in the title game on 11-of-18 shooting, Sequoyah sophomore guard Cenia Hayes helped power the Lady Indians past the Chisholm Lady Longhorns in the title game. As a team, Sequoyah went 7-for-15 from beyond the 3-point line in the championship game and outrebounded the Lady Longhorns by a 36-25 margin. Hayes was named the Class 3A tournament’s Most Valuable Player and her teammate, senior Jhonett Cookson, was named to the all-tournament first team, as was CN citizen and Adair High School senior Kylie Looney. Sequoyah senior Sierra Polk was named to the all-tournament second team. In Class 4A, the Locust Grove Lady Pirates had a tougher road en route to the school’s first girls basketball state title. After dropping the area final to Vinita, the Lady Pirates qualified for the state tournament by winning the consolation final against Berryhill and were bracketed with No. 4 Harrah and the back-to-back state champion Fort Gibson Lady Tigers. The Lady Pirates needed overtime to beat Harrah and squeaked past Fort Gibson by six in the semifinals. In the final, Locust Grove held Oral Roberts University signee Ashley Beatty to 10 points on 3-of-19 shooting en route to a 51-33 win over the top-ranked Anadarko Lady Warriors. Two CN citizens, seniors Kennedy Sokoloski and Madison Davis, earned Class 4A first team all-tournament honors. The Sequoyah boys basketball team also qualified for the 3A state tournament, but was eliminated in the quarterfinals by eventual state runner-up Verdigris. Other schools at least partially within the Nation’s jurisdiction to send teams to the state tournament consist of the 6A runners-up Muskogee Lady Roughers, the 5A runners-up Tulsa East Central Lady Cardinals, the 4A state champion Tulsa Central Braves, the 4A state runners-up Tulsa McLain Titans, Stilwell Indians, Chouteau-Mazie Wildcats, Sperry Pirates, Fort Gibson Tigers and Lady Tigers, Pryor Tigers, Owasso Rams, Okay Mustangs, Adair Lady Warriors, Vian Lady Wolverines, Hilldale Lady Hornets, Collinsville Lady Cardinals, Vinita Lady Hornets and Grove Lady Ridgerunners. Averaging 25.5 points per game, Stilwell senior Chase Littlejohn was named to the 4A boys all-tournament first team. With Stilwell eliminated in a double-overtime semifinal game by eventual state champion Tulsa Central, Littlejohn was the only player on the first team who did not participate in the state title game.
BY STACIE GUTHRIE
Reporter
03/24/2015 08:00 AM
FAYETTEVILLE, Ark. – The University of Arkansas Native American Student Association plans on planting on campus various heirloom seeds obtained from the Cherokee Nation’s Seed Bank. This is first time heirloom seeds will be planted on the campus. NASA President Elise Clote, a junior at the university, said she and other NASA members in February traveled to the W.W. Keeler Complex in Tahlequah, Oklahoma, to get the seeds. “We received several different kinds of seeds from the Cherokee Nation,” she said. “(Administration Liaison) Pat Gwin met with us and just showed some different seed options and what they have.” She said they received corn, squash, bean, gourd and other seeds to plant. Clote said NASA is teaming up with GroGreen, a campus organization with a garden on campus, to plant and manage the seeds. “At one point, the Native American Student Association was trying to get our own garden started on campus and then we decided that it’s probably be better to partner with another organization. That way we could grow our members and also educate their members and then learn more from their RSO (Registered Student Organization) as well,” she said. The seeds are to be planted in a courtyard garden near the campus’s Maple Hill dormitories. Clote said it is important to have the seeds growing on the campus to help educate people about the plants. “I think it’s important to bring some of the agricultural history back to the area considering how many tribes once lived here,” she said. “We also have a Trail of Tears marker on campus where some of the Cherokee camped out on what is now the University of Arkansas.” Clote said NASA members are looking forward to the future of the garden and working with other students. “We do have a lot of Native students that are involved and are really looking forward to not only planting these seeds on campus but also working with other RSOs on campus and educating their groups,” she said. She said she’s eager about the path NASA is taking when it comes to the garden. “I’m really excited that NASA’s growing and that we’re working on projects like this, that promote Native foods sustainability and promote using our own seeds to cultivate and grow our own food,” she said. Clote said all food harvested from the garden would be be donated to local food pantries or academically studied. “Everything will be eaten, or if some of the fruit goes bad or has some kind of disease problem, people will use those academically to study those plants,” she said. NASA plans to have a public ceremony on May 2 at the garden. “We’re going to have a opening ceremony and it’s just so that we can bring some indigenous plants back to campus, which is kind of the whole purpose of why we wanted to do get them from Cherokee Nation and have them planted this year,” she said. Clote said she hopes to see the garden continues with the possibility of obtaining seeds from other tribes. “I don’t know what next year will hold, I feel like we may branch out and talk to some different tribes about getting some of their seeds,” she said. CN cultural biologist Feather Smith-Trevino said the NASA students planting the heirloom seeds helps with the preservation of the seeds and gives the students an educational experience. “It helps us with the preservation, really continuing on these heirloom lines,” she said. “It’s going to help a lot with the education for all the students that are over there, getting them interested. Hopefully, it will be something that they can continue on so that we’ll be able to work together in this program. “It’s nice to see that this younger generation is involved in this and they’re passionate about it,” she added. “It kind of helps them to learn how to take care of their own food, grow their own food. Not only is it educational in the Native American side of it, it just really helps everybody all the way around.”
BY STACIE GUTHRIE
Reporter
03/22/2015 08:00 AM
TAHLEQUAH, Okla. – Northeastern State University’s 43rd annual Symposium on the American Indian is set for April 14-18 at its Tahlequah campus. The symposium features events that help celebrate and spread the importance of Native American languages, arts and cultures. NSU Center for Tribal Studies Interim Director Alisa Douglas (Seminole) said this year’s theme is “Children: Seeds of Change.” “The focus of the theme poses the question of where our tribes will be in the future when our younger generation steps into those roles, and the passing of our tradition and culture and how that is taught to students today, and how will they interpret our culture and the vision of the tribe and where we will be as a tribe in the future,” she said. Douglas said the theme is relevant to not only today’s society, but to past societies as well. “I’m sure those in the past have posed the same questions, too,” she said. “So, here we are in the present day and then we’re asking the same questions, ‘where will our tribe be?’” Douglas said the symposium is a good for people who want to learn more about Native American cultures and about what individuals are doing to raise awareness about Native issues. Events will range from the American Indian Film Series to panels concerning Native issues. “A lot of our speakers are not just those close to the Tahlequah area, but we have speakers nationwide,” she said. Douglas said the symposium kicks off at 7 p.m. on April 14 with the screening of the film “Ronnie Bodean,” which stars Cherokee actor Wes Studi. She said Studi, along with the film’s director and producer, Steven Judd, would conduct a Q&A session after the screening. The week also includes more film screenings, a concert, discussion panels, a stickball game and powwow. Douglas said this year the symposium is adding a cultural art activity class with Elizabeth Scott. The Cherokee artist will lead participants in making their own copper art. The class is for 6 p.m. on April 16. The class is free and open to the public with 25 seats available. Douglas said although there are only 25 seats, people are welcome to observe Scott teach. Douglas said she believes this year’s symposium will be successful. “We hope everybody can come out and enjoy it,” she said. “Everybody’s put in a lot of hard work and I’m thankful for those.” The symposium’s main events will take place at NSU’s University Center, excluding the American Indian Symposium Film Series, which will have screenings in the W. Roger Webb Educational Technology Center. The stickball game will take place at NSU’s Beta Field and the powwow will take place in the campus’s multipurpose event center. To view the agenda, visit <a href="http://bit.ly/1MRWQ9W" target="_blank">http://bit.ly/1MRWQ9W</a>.
BY ASSOCIATED PRESS
03/18/2015 04:00 PM
OKLAHOMA CITY – According to the Oklahoma State Senate Communications Division, the Senate passed a bill to allow for more flexibility when deciding the eligibility for the Oklahoma Higher Learning Access Program by the State Regents of Higher Education. Senate Bill 137 will “direct the Regents to create an appeals process for students denied OHLAP because of their families’ special financial situations,” the release states. “The purpose of the OHLAP program is to help provide free tuition to any Oklahoma student who wants to get a college degree and meets the qualifications. However, many students have been denied the scholarship because of their parent’s Social Security disability payments or nontaxable military pay including combat pay, hazardous duty pay and active duty basic allowance for housing benefits among other payments,” said Brooks, R-Washington. “This bill will allow the Regents to review these special cases to ensure that the state isn’t keeping someone who truly has a financial need from getting a degree.” In order to qualify for OHLAP, a family’s taxable and nontaxable income cannot exceed $50,000 annually, the release states, but because of this new bill each case can be reviewed when a family’s income includes nontaxable military benefits or federal Social Security Administration payments due to the death or disability of one or both parents. The bill will allow a student to qualify if income is found to be less than $50,000 excluding those monetary benefits. SB 137 will now go to the House for further consideration, according to the release. For more information, call Sen. Brooks at 405-521-5522.
BY STAFF REPORTS
03/11/2015 02:00 PM
PALM SPRINGS, Calif. –The 38th annual California Conference on American Indian Education will be on March 15-17 at the Renaissance Palm Springs Hotel. The conference theme for 2015 is “Indian Education: Meeting the Challenge.” The conference offers an opportunity for individuals to share traditional academic teaching and learning. It is designed to advocate academic excellence and educational opportunities for Native American families, educators, tribal leaders and board members. It also provides opportunities for networking. The conference honors the commitment of families and those who contribute to the advancement of Indian Education in California and elders. To view the agenda, visit <a href="http://www.ccaie.org" target="_blank">www.ccaie.org</a>.