(L to R) Front Row: Cherokee Nation Deputy Chief S. Joe Crittenden, Tribal Council Speaker Joe Byrd, Principal Chief Bill John Baker and Tribal Council Secretary Frankie Hargis. Back Row: Tribal Councilors Buel Anglen and Shawn Crittenden, Sequoyah High School Principal Jolyn Choate, Tribal Councilors E.O. Smith, Keith Austin and Bryan Warner, Secretary of State Chuck Hoskin Jr., Tribal Councilors Dick Lay, Dr. Mike Dobbins and Mike Shambaugh, Tribal Council Deputy Speaker Victoria Vazquez and Tribal Councilors Mary Baker Shaw and David Walkingstick.
TAHLEQUAH, Okla. – The Cherokee Nation is giving its certified teachers at Sequoyah High School and Cherokee Immersion Charter School an immediate pay raise.
The 45 certified teachers are expected to receive a $5,000 lump sum payment on March 29 for the current contract year with $5,000 added to the teachers’ base salary on July 1, when the teachers’ new contract year begins.
Principal Chief Bill John Baker proposed the legislation and Tribal Council approved it 16-1 during Monday night’s Tribal Council meeting.
“Over the past decade the state of Oklahoma has made drastic budget cuts to public education. At the same time, the responsibilities of teachers continue to increase exponentially. From monitoring student safety, to test preparation to finding ways to help students in need of food or school supplies, Oklahoma teachers go above and beyond the call of duty each day and with fewer resources each year,” Chief Baker said. “Cherokee Nation is unwavering in its commitment to public schools, students and teachers. This pay increase reaffirms that commitment and, I hope, sends a message to state leaders that they should follow Cherokee Nation’s lead and raise pay for all certified teachers in the state.”
The current average salary for certified teachers at Sequoyah High School and Cherokee Immersion Charter School is $42,815.
Tribal Councilor Bryan Warner serves as the co-chair of the education committee and said a pay increase for certified teachers at the two schools the tribe operates is long overdue.
“I could not be more thrilled to cast my vote for this legislation and take a stance of support for our teachers at Sequoyah and Cherokee Immersion Charter School,” Warner said. “Teachers have a vital role in our children’s lives, and have gone unappreciated for their work for far too long in this state. I hope our tribe’s action today can serve as a standard to the state legislature.”
Jon Minor has taught at Sequoyah High School for more than five years, including teaching financial literacy, social and emotional learning, health, and serving as an assistant coach in basketball and golf.
The tribe’s support of education is important for the teacher’s effectiveness in the classroom, he said.
“The Cherokee Nation has been very supportive and proactive in the opportunities provided for our students, faculty, staff and administration at Sequoyah High School. We have multiple avenues and resources that Cherokee Nation brings into our school system, that allows us to teach and do our jobs more efficiently,” Minor said.
Cherokee Immersion Charter School fifth grade teacher Meda Nix, in her seventh year of teaching, said her heart started pounding when she heard she was getting a pay raise. The increase will help recruit and retain teachers, and be an incentive for others in the classroom to get their certification, she said.
“I feel for all the teachers going through this. People don’t realize how hard and mentally exhausting teaching can be and that it takes a special person to come in every day and put their heart and soul into it,” Nix said. “I want to thank the Chief and Tribal Council for thinking of us and taking care of us.”
In other business, the Tribal Council confirmed the reappointment of Elmer Tadpole, of Claremore, as a governing board member of the Cherokee Nation Comprehensive Care Agency (PACE). The body also confirmed the appointment of Brenda Thompson, of Houston, as an editorial board member of the Cherokee Phoenix.
The next Tribal Council meeting will be Monday, April 16, at 6 p.m. at the W.W. Keeler Tribal Complex in Tahlequah.
Cherokee Nation News Release
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