Northern Cheyenne tribal leaders disband school board

2010-02-23T17:39:00Z Northern Cheyenne tribal leaders disband school boardROB ROGERS Of The Gazette Staff The Billings Gazette
February 23, 2010 5:39 pm  • 

The Northern Cheyenne Tribal Council issued an executive order Tuesday disbanding the tribe’s school board and barring trustees from school campus.

The move came after the school board voted Monday night to fire for a second time the principal/superintendent of the Northern Cheyenne Tribal School. A grievance committee made up of three board trustees initially voted to fire Elberta Monroe on Feb. 11.

But that decision was put on hold four days later by the tribal council until the council could investigate the allegations made against Monroe, which formed the basis for the grievance committee’s action. Monroe continued to report to work.

The tribal council will meet Monday to set a date to review the allegations against Monroe.

School staff and community members complained to the board that Monroe does not have the necessary state cre-dential to work as a superintendent/principal; that she has non-credentialed teachers leading core classes at the school; that Monroe failed to complete on time a “satisfactory accreditation report” to the state’s Office of Public Instruction; and that she falsified a report to OPI that stated she had conducted teacher in-service training for staff when she hadn’t.

Meredith McConnell, school board chairwoman and head of the grievance committee, did not return calls Tuesday seeking comment.

The tribal council’s decision to override the school board’s decision to terminate Monroe and then disband the board altogether has sparked a debate between school officials and council members over who gives the school board authority to operate.

“For the tribal council to get involved clearly violates the Northern Cheyenne constitution,” said Winston Frost.

Frost is a lawyer who taught at Chief Dull Knife College and was the civics teacher at the tribal school until he was fired by Monroe earlier in the school year, he said.

The move by the tribal council — part of the legislative branch of the tribal government — infringes on the jurisdic-tion of the judicial branch, which would normally be the body to which someone would appeal a decision by the school board, Frost said.

The tribal council’s involvement then violates the separation of power clause in the tribe constitution, he said.

Jace Killsback, tribal council member, said the council was well within its rights to act.

“It seems like a power struggle but it’s not because the power lies with the tribal council,” he said.

The Bureau of Indian Education, which originally ran the Northern Cheyenne Tribal School as a boarding school, handed over the school to the tribal council years ago, given the council responsible to oversee its operation, Killsback said.

The tribal council, which first governed the school with an appointed board, still controls school finances, Killsback said. The board, however, is currently made up of elected trustees.

When the board met Monday night and voted once more to fire Monroe, the tribal council was forced to act, Kills-back said.

Contact Rob Rogers at or at 406-657-1231.

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