Cherokee Schools to craft new long-range strategic plan

Cherokee Schools has launched a year-long process to develop a new strategic plan, a move prompted by issues raised in a recent accreditation review of the school system.

As a sovereign entity, the Eastern Band of Cherokee Indians operates its own school system and does not have to comply with the state standards as other public schools do. But, Cherokee Schools are subject to certain oversights through the Bureau of Indian Education.

“We have to meet a lot of different standards,” said Lori Blankenship, chair of the Cherokee school board. And “It is in our best interest to be accredited.”

The schools must go through an accreditation process every few years.

The new strategic plan is in its infancy and will take the better part of a year to piece together, said school officials at a recent tribal council meeting. The first step is a public meeting to gain input from students, parents, teachers and other stakeholders about what they would like the plan to include.

“That may give us even more precise direction (for the schools) or it may change the direction depending,” said Mark Rogers, acting superintendent for Cherokee Central Schools. “It won’t just be me going through striking; it will be a group effort.”

The recent review found three areas where the schools needed to make changes to be full accredited. They have until 2014 to make the adjustments.

The first of three required actions is more staff development opportunities, which can help the schools attract and retain quality teachers. School officials plan to join the National School Boards Association and the National Indian School Board Association.

“They provide lots of training and structure that really assists in policy making,” Rogers said.

Another, more holistic required action is the continuity of curriculum from grade-to-grade. The schools are currently looking at a top-down approach to connecting the curriculum and ensuring that the students in one grade are adequately prepared for the next.

By looking at what a high school senior should learn and know before they graduate, administrators can figure out what the juniors should study to be ready for their senior year, what sophomores should study to be ready for their junior year, and so on. The continuity will not only exist among grades but also among subjects.

“That will start the conversation with the eighth grade. What do they need to do to develop that ninth grade student?” Rogers said.

The final required action includes tracking more quantitative data to show marked improvement — something that the schools currently do, Rogers said.

“We just did not put it in our strategic plan,” he said.

Students at Cherokee Central Schools recently finished their end of year testing, and the results are looking good, Rogers said. “Our tests scores are way up. Preliminary result look very positive,” he said.

The test scores were not being released as of Monday because students had not been notified of their scores.

The review marked the first time it was done for the elementary, middle and high schools collectively, rather than as separate entities. The three schools are all part of the same campus now, after the construction of a massive, new $109-million school for K-12 students in 2009.

“This is the first time they’ve come together,” said Terri Henry, a tribal council representative from Painttown.

The new strategic plan will include elements of the current plan, which was approved in 2009. One element that will likely be removed from the plan will be additional course offerings, which would mean hiring more teachers, supplies and other related items.

“We hope to maintain what we have,” Rogers said. “We are in a bad economy, and the money is not flowing, and our main goal to maintain what we have right now.”

There are currently about 1,150 students enrolled in the Cherokee Central Schools.


Voice your opinion

Cherokee Central Schools will hold a public meeting at 6 p.m., May 24, at the school to hear input from students, parents and other stakeholders regarding a strategic plan for the school system.

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