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 STACIE GUTHRIE
Reporter
06/26/2015 08:00 AM
TAHLEQUAH, Okla. –The Cherokee Nation and University of Tulsa are teaming up to conduct an indoor air quality study called “From Home to School” that will focus on indoor air quality and indoor environments in schools and homes where asthma allergens and contaminants are found. Tribal and TU officials hope to reduce those contaminants, as well as asthma episodes and related illnesses. TU Indoor Air Program research associate David Reisdorph said asthma health is a major concern for all ethnic groups, with Native American’s asthma rates being some of the highest. “This study is important because we’re focusing on that and looking at ways of improving on asthma health,” he said. He said the research is something the TU program regularly conducts research on and that this study is unique because it conducts research in the home and school. “Indoor air is usually much more polluted than outdoor air, and people spend the majority of their time indoors. For children, that majority of time tends to be in their homes and school,” Reisdorph said. “In our research we know that lower indoor air quality has an impact on health and in particular on school performance. Those with asthma and severe allergies, they’re even more impacted by poor indoor air quality because the contaminants that trigger allergies and trigger asthma is higher.” TU Indoor Air Research Program Director Richard Shaughnessy said officials are hoping to reduce health symptoms related to asthma, which will ultimately reduce the number of absent students from school. “Along with that too, one of the reasons is that this is one of the first studies related to tribal populations in terms of really making a difference in asthma-related to indoor air quality in homes and schools,” he said. For the study, officials recruited Briggs, Brushy, Cave Springs, Gore, Hulbert, Liberty, Muldrow, Rocky Mountain, Stilwell, Tenkiller, Westville and Zion public schools. Each school was chosen based on the number of Cherokee students enrolled, with the study calling for children who are in kindergarten to eighth grade for the coming school year. “We’re looking for families with children with asthma or severe allergies,” Reisdorph said. “We can enroll up to 104 families, so we are wanting to get as close as possible to that number.” Reisdorph said there would be a total of four groups, which would be study groups, control groups and a combination of both. He said all families and schools participating in the study would receive education on how to lower indoor air contaminants, a free HEPA vacuum cleaner, cleaning materials and supplies and an asthma mattress encasement for an asthmatic child’s bed. He said families or schools in the control groups would receive the education and the supplies at the end of the study. CN Health Research Director Sohail Khan said he is glad study officials are able to offer the education and cleaning items to these families. “We feel that this is good. We’re going to provide cleaning supplies and specialized vacuum cleaner, and these are not the kind that you buy in store,” he said. “The good part is that even the families who are in the control group at the end of the 12 months they get the same supplies, just not during that part. All the techniques the materials, the vacuum all that.” All groups will be visited three times during the year, each time receiving a $30 gift card for participating. Reisdorph said through the study, officials were able to hire six CN citizens who are students at Northeastern State University in Tahlequah. He said these students would collect a portion of the data in the homes and schools. “So they’ll be working with Richard and I and others on the research project and they’ll be collecting a lot of the data and they’re going to be learning about field research,” he said. “They all have science backgrounds and interests in environmental health. We’re happy to have them.” Khan said the study’s goal is to figure out what works best when it comes to reducing asthma-related illnesses and be able to replicate those findings. He said officials also want to be able to produce education material concerning the study and share the results with others. “Our hope is that the potential benefit of the research is that you have healthier kids, fewer missed classes, less and less and fewer trips to the…ER, which is the most expensive way of treating anybody, fewer medication that you have to rely on,” he said. “When you improve the air quality inside the house it actually benefits everybody, not just the kid with asthma.” Families are now being enrolled for the study for the upcoming school year. For more information, call Reisdorph at 918-237-2189 or email <a href="mailto: david-reisdorph@utulsa.edu">david-reisdorph@utulsa.edu</a> or call Shaun West at 918-453-5363 or email <a href="mailto: shaun-west@cherokee.org">shaun-west@cherokee.org</a>.
BY STAFF REPORTS
06/25/2015 05:00 PM
TAHLEQUAH, Okla. – Cherokee Nation Foundation and Northeastern State University recently hosted the second annual ACT Prep camp for Cherokee juniors and seniors where students worked throughout the week to prepare for the exam and attended workshops focusing on admissions, financial aid and scholarships, essay writing and time management. “We are beyond excited to see so many of our Cherokee youth taking advantage of this program and preparing their absolute best for the ACT test,” said Janice Randall, CNF executive director. “The impact this test score can have on their future is immeasurable, and programs like this give the students the opportunity and skills to exceed their own expectations.” Students gained a firsthand look at what college life is like and spent the week on campus in traditional dorms. The camp included evening social events and activities highlighting Cherokee culture such as storytelling and a game of stickball. “Attending this camp gave me the opportunity to identify my areas of weakness on the ACT exam,” said Trae Hendricks, senior at Tahlequah High School. “I was able to focus on improving those areas and received one-on-one support from the faculty and staff. We showed up ready to work, and I truly believe that all our hard work paid off.” At the end of the weeklong camp, students took the official ACT test. “It was inspiring to see the level of dedication these students had for improving their scores,” said Jennifer Sandoval, CNF ACT prep coordinator. “These kids have so much going on during the summer, and it is refreshing to see them make their educational goals a priority.” Twenty-eight students attended the camp from 15 schools in northeastern Oklahoma. All meals and lodging, classroom materials and testing fees were provided through CNF and NSU scholarships. CNF also hosts the Cherokee College Prep Institute in July and offers ACT prep courses within the tribe’s 14-county jurisdiction throughout the academic year. For more information on ACT prep opportunities, contact CNF at 918-207-0950 or Janice Randall at <a href="mailto: jr@cherokeenationfoundation.org">jr@cherokeenationfoundation.org</a> <strong>This year’s ACT Prep camp students</strong> Paige Hardman, Catoosa High School Shelbi Hoskin, Edison High School John Porterfield, Harrison High School in Arkansas Breoana Stafford, Haskell High School Hannah Garrett, Moore High School Brooke Boyd, Owasso High School Harrison Horne, Owasso High School Conner Jones, Owasso High School Brooklyn Mossier, Owasso High School Connor Pendergraft, Owasso High School Julia Quinton, Owasso High School Hayden Russell, Owasso High School Allie Slagle, Owasso High School Brenly McAdoo, Piedmont High School KassaDee Merrill, Porter High School Meleya Belden, Pryor High School Kelby Welsh, Pryor High School Shelby Wood, Pryor High School Indy Hicks, Sequoyah High School Zachary Parish, Sequoyah High School Trey Pritchett, Sequoyah High School Macie Sullateskee, Sequoyah High School Trae Hendricks, Tahlequah High School Ivy Trout, Union High School Cassidy Henderson, Vinita High School Britney Hammans, Warner High School Madison Nickens, Westville High School Noah Nickens, Westville High School
BY STAFF REPORTS
06/17/2015 04:00 PM
TAHLEQUAH, Okla. – Newly accepted Gates Millennium Scholars and their families are invited to attend an information session about the scholarship from 4 p.m. to 6 p.m. June 18 at the Sequoyah High School Gym, also known as The Place Where They Play. The session is in partnership with the American Indian Graduate Center Scholars and will feature current scholars and alumni who will discuss their journeys within higher education at the undergraduate and graduate levels. The session will cover topics including the transition from high school to college, financial aid and the Gates Millennium Scholarship awarding process, how to maintain the scholarship and joining Campus Based Organizations. The session will also allow for one-on-one conversations where freshman scholars can begin building their networks. Participants must register at <a href="http://www.aigcs.org/kbyg" target="_blank">www.aigcs.org/kbyg</a>.
BY STAFF REPORTS
06/16/2015 11:30 AM
MUSKOGEE, Okla. – The Center for Tribal Languages at Bacone College has announced a new bachelor’s degree in tribal languages with enrollment for courses beginning in this fall semester. The degree is a blend of community-based immersion Native Language learning, online courses and onsite courses. One of only a handful of similar college degree programs in North America, this degree program offers students the opportunity to earn college credit by learning and studying their heritage language in their home language communities with an advanced language instructor and tribal elder speakers. Designed in a collaborative partnership with the Sauk Language Department of the Sac and Fox Nation, this degree program offers courses that challenge students to not only learn their language, but also gives them the skill sets to become professional Native language instructors, language revitalization advocates, and future tribal leaders. At this time, the only languages available for this program are Sauk (Sac and Fox), Seminole, Cherokee, Euchee, and Chickasaw. The Center for Tribal Languages looks forward to adding more tribal language partners to this degree program soon, stated a school press release. If you are a tribal language program/instructor who would like more information on this program, call 918-968-0070.
BY TESINA JACKSON
Reporter
06/04/2015 08:30 AM
TAHLEQUAH, Okla. – During a May 20 meeting, Cherokee Nation Foundation board members approved the foundation’s 2014 audit, which was completed by certified public accountant Robert St. Pierre. “He (St. Pierre) also issued a report under government auditing standards, and on those he looked at internal controls over financial reporting, and his conclusion is we did not find any deficiencies in the internal controls that we consider to be material weaknesses,” J.D. Carey, CNF certified public accountant, said. Carey said St. Pierre’s 2014 audit and unqualified opinion, which are issued when the independent auditor believes the company’s financial statements are sound or free from material misstatements, are better when compared to the 2013 audit. “There were no disagreements with management over the course of the audit and there were no other findings or issues that he believed needed to be reported to the board as part of the audit,” Carey said. According to the CNF 2013 audit, no accounting controls were exercised over restricted funds and their disbursements. The auditor was unable to obtain sufficient appropriate audit evidence about the amounts recorded as restricted funds. The auditor was also unable to determine whether adjustments to those amounts were necessary. Accounting controls over the disbursement of funds for the payment of expenditures and payroll were not sufficient and a great deal of those expenditures did not have appropriate supporting documentation, it states. In other business, the board also approved a new brand for the foundation. CNF Executive Director Janice Randall said the brand would be used for stationary and for its website, which will also be updated. “We are wanting to redo our website as soon as possible because we get so many complaints about our website being down,” she said. CNF is a nonprofit organization serving the Cherokee Nation. Its mission is to provide higher educational assistance to the Cherokee people and help revitalize the Cherokee language. <a href="http://www.cherokeephoenix.org/Docs/2015/6/9322_edu_150603_CNF.pdf" target="_blank">Click here to view</a> the Cherokee Nation Education Corporation audited financial statements.
BY TESINA JACKSON
Reporter
06/03/2015 04:00 PM
OKLAHOMA CITY – To expand his academic career and create more opportunities outside of Tahlequah, Cherokee Nation citizen Kevin Harris started attending the Oklahoma School of Science and Mathematics two years ago. “I decided to attend OSSM because the school represented what I had long been searching for, a place to spread my academic wings and take flight in any and all directions I wished,” he said. “OSSM was like a lucky treasure chest in a video game. I knew what to expect and I had hopes it would be better than what I already had, but what I found within that chest, within OSSM, was opportunities, memories and experiences that I could not have dreamed of.” Established and funded by the Oklahoma Legislature in 1983, the two-year public residential high school was designed to educate academically gifted high school students in advanced mathematics and science. OSSM opened its doors in 1990 and is open to all Oklahoma students entering their junior year of high school. “He has done a lot to get where he’s at today,” Pam Harris, Kevin’s mother, said. “We are very proud of him.” Kevin said the challenges he faced at the school were hard, complicated and unexpected but he could not have imagined a better decision. “The friendships I made are stronger than the bonds I shared with my closest of friends back at home,” he said. “I look back at my time here at OSSM and know that I would not have traded it for the world. In the end, it is not the academics that I feel OSSM has taught me that is the most important, it is how to clearly express myself, to take constructive criticism with an air of humility and most important of all, to bring myself to understand my faults and to improve upon them, all the while utilizing my strengths full-throttle.” Today, the decision to attend OSSM has helped pave the way for his future as he was recently named a QuestBridge and Gates Millennium scholar. “To be honest, it did not really hit me when I found out I received QuestBridge or Gates,” he said. “I have never been responsible for handling amounts of money larger than 40 or 50 dollars, so the idea of being given collectively over a half a million dollars just could not register in my naïve brain.” QuestBridge is a nonprofit program that links high-achieving, low-income students with educational and scholarship opportunities at leading U.S. colleges and universities. Along with becoming a QuestBridge Scholar, Kevin was accepted into Haverford College, which is located outside of Philadelphia. “QuestBridge is a complicated program, but in a nutshell the program is meant to unite low-income, academically exceptional students with colleges willing to help provide the means for those students to attend college,” Kevin said. “I applied through QuestBridge to eight colleges, one of them being Haverford College, for admission to the college with the guarantee of receiving the QuestBridge Scholarship or a scholarship provided by the college that covered all tuition, living expenses, room and board and all other costs, both direct and indirect, a student is expected to face while attending the college for four years. In the end, I was happily matched to Haverford College.” Kevin said he decided to attend Haverford College based on where the college is, how many people attended, whether or not they offered a degree his was interested in and the overall college environment. “Haverford fit all of my criteria for a favored college,” he said. “Haverford is located in a suburb with a rural-like campus, yet is within driving distance of a larger city, has a relatively small number of students ranging in the low thousands, offers a major in biomedical engineering and Japanese and is an undergraduate-only college. By being an undergraduate college, Haverford is more dedicated to the education and experience of its students and is not divided amongst graduates and undergraduates.” Even though Kevin became a QuestBridge Scholar and was accepted to Haverford, he also applied for the Gates Millennium Scholarship to ensure that any surprise cost that arose would be paid for. The Gates Scholarship was established in 1999 and was initially funded by a $1 billion grant from the Bill & Melinda Gates Foundation. Each year the foundation awards 1,000 minority students, 150 of which are Native American, up to $250,000 in college scholarships per scholar. The scholarship is based on a 3.5 GPA, community service hours, leadership and eight written essays. “Due to the nature of the Gates Millennium Scholarship, I can use it to cover unmet needs associated with undergraduate and graduate education, even if I do not particularly need it for my undergraduate education,” Kevin said. “As my parents always taught me, it is better to be safe than sorry and when hundreds of thousands of dollars are on the line, I went the extra couple of miles to ensure that nothing could lash out financially against me or my family.” While attending Haverford, he plans to study biomedical engineering as a pre-health track with a Japanese minor. “I have always struggled with deciding what exactly it is I would like to pursue in college, but my recent experiences at OSSM have led me to lean towards the health field and engineering as well as towards traveling around the world to immerse myself in different cultures and lifestyles,” he said. “I like the concept of bioengineering because it applies the concept of engineering, of manipulating something through knowledge about the object in order to induce certain behaviors in the object, to living creatures.” Kevin said he plans on using the two degrees to obtain a job in the medical field that provides considerable financial and emotional fulfillment, to travel and experience new lifestyles and to give back to those who have helped him achieve what he has so far by serving the U.S. Army as a civilian contractor.