Sequoyah High School Faces Budget Crisis
An Open Letter from Chad Smith:
Recently, some very troubling news has reached me; Sequoyah High School has overspent its budget by $1.2 million dollars and has been taking drastic steps to reduce services to students. To stay afloat, Chief Baker requested a special Council Meeting and has transferred $1.2 million from the Cherokee Nation’s tribal capital improvements to Sequoyah’s administrative fund.
I have heard directly that many on the Sequoyah staff are scared that if they say anything they will be fired.
And there is more. Salaries have been cut, in some cases by more than $10,000. Staff training and development activities have been eliminated. Student programs like the highly successful robotics team have lost funding up to $25,000. And unbelievably, school supplies like paper and pencils are being rationed out.
As of now, no one can tell us where this money went.
Leroy Qualls now serves as Baker’s hand-picked superintendent for Sequoyah and as you might remember, Qualls was also in charge of Sequoyah 15 years ago. And what turns out to be a bitter repeat of history, it was Qualls who also ran up Sequoyah’s deficit to $1.2 million back then. After his departure, it took years for the Cherokee Nation to get the school on solid financial footing.
Only three years ago, Sequoyah was a crown jewel of education for Cherokee students, with new facilities and additional staff and resources. Academic achievement was constantly improving. But in the short time since, this administration has managed to run the school back into a huge deficit.
It’s clear the financial crisis at Sequoyah is caused by mismanagement and misplaced priorities. As many people know, Bill John Baker has appointed his political allies to key positions all over the tribe, whether they could handle their jobs or not. Many Cherokees and I worry that the results of this mismanagement will lead the Nation straight to bankruptcy.
Often, the price of irresponsible actions falls on the people who make the mistakes, but not here. With nearly $1.2 million unaccounted for, it is the students, teachers and parents who make up for the missing money with their own personal sacrifice. In this case, it is Cherokee students who suffer the most.
Hope will not take us out of this mess. Only with responsible leaders taking responsible actions will our Nation move back in the right direction. Over the last thirty years, Cherokee pride has grown with our prosperity and excellence in all fields. Today, we expect nothing less.