With my business being education, I am slightly in a different boat than most offering a good or service. We are not in the business of making a profit, but we still produce. This could be to our students or our community. I am going to break it down for you a little for a better understanding.
First, we have demographics. Our school services the entire Eastern Band of Cherokee Indians Boundary. The majority of the boundary is split between two counties. Swain and Jackson. We also have some tribal land located in Gramhm county. Students who are located anywhere on tribal land can go to our school. Also, enrolled members who live off the boundary are allowed to enroll in our school. We also take others on a case-by-case basis. So, take all those factors and then look at our student population. These students have a lot of different choices on where they can attend school. Of course, we want them to go to school with us, but we do not appeal to everyone. Something we have been working on for some time now is our image in the community. Many people have their opinions on our district, which are no longer valid. Working on our overall appearance will help us appeal more and allow us to gain more students.
With us being a tribal school, we secure funding from several different sources. This could be the BIE, state, and gaming revenue. With that being said, we are a highly blessed district in an ideal economic situation. Each year we average spending roughly $10,000 per student. We have a universal food program, where each of our students receives free lunch. Our entire district is 1 to 1 when it comes to technology. Grades Pre-k-3rd have assistants in each classroom, which is only a few of the blessings we receive. This personally is a huge selling point when students are considering what school to place their students in.
Now that we have talked about two very positive points let’s get into politics. With the fact being that we are a tribal school, we are government slightly different. We follow some federal rules, state rules, and tribal. Let’s use covid for an example of how we governed tribally when the rest of the world was shutting down, Cherokee shutdown. Minimal access on or off through checkpoints. Some of our teachers had to be granted special permission to even get in Cherokee to access the school. Another way that government affects us slightly different we have to follow tribal orders even if they are different from the stand. Currently, we are still under a mask mandate inside any building on the boundary. This includes our school, and parents have to consider this when sending their child to us.
Now that we have touched on all these critical factors, I want to connect on what I believe to be our greatest asset, culture. When we are talking about MACROs, I know we do not precisely define culture in the way I am, but my entire situation is different, so why not run with it. There is nowhere, and I mean nowhere, where you can be exposed to the Cherokee culture other than Cherokee central School. You are exposed every single day. Often students feel more comfortable being around others who understand the social and cultural differences we face in our community. I know personally, it has helped my daughter. She has other friends who are not a part of their Cherokee community, and they do not always understand why she does certain things. Don’t get me wrong, she enjoys spending time with them, but her friends at school do not question it.
Lastly, let’s touch on technology. We are blessed with at Cherokee is the funding to give each student their device. Something that the school can not buy is access to the internet. This is where we are at a disadvantage to other districts. Many of our students do not have access to the internet at home or do not have it available where they live. When we were faced with requiring virtual instruction, we had a lot of hurdles to overcome. We did our best to help where we could to keep the students we had. We handed out jet packs to those who had cell service and gave the paperwork to those who had no choice. We lost some students because we went remote for so long when other districts did not.
When selling education, there is no one set of rules that work for all. Every scenario is different. In our case, we are constantly working to fix our shortcomings to be the best we can be for our community.