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Charlotte Amalie
Thursday, June 20, 2024


For the second time in less than a week, V.I. public school teachers
walked off the job in the St. Thomas-St. John district.
The apparent job action was reportedly the result of meetings held earlier this week by officials of the American Federation of Teachers, representing unionized government teachers and paraprofessionals.
Education Commissioner Ruby Simmonds took to the airwaves Wednesday morning to say schools were officially opened. Education spokeswoman June Archibald said classes on St. Croix were held as scheduled However, a number of school principals, finding their teaching staffs absent or significantly reduced, chose to dismiss their students for the day.
New Horizons Alternative School and Ulla Muller Elementary School joined the list of schools opting for early dismissal by mid-morning Wednesday.
Eric Blake Jr. principal of New Horizons said he sent 20 students home when he arrived at school and found no teachers there.
"I think everyone had an idea that this would happen from yesterday.
There are some serious concerns from the AFT (American Federation of Teachers) in terms of the quality of work, low staffing at the school and issues like that. They had a meeting yesterday after school and I wasn't aware of the final decision but I suspected this would happen today," he said.
At Ulla Muller principal Ophelia Shillingford waited with a group of about 25 students while parents arrived to pick them up. Shillingford said two teachers, three paraprofessionals and 50 students reported for class, as well as all custodial and cafeteria workers. After consulting with the office of the district school superintendent, she said she decided to close Muller school for the day and arranged for school buses to transport those students who regularly travel by bus.
Many of the education professionals who didn't show up for school Wednesday took part in a demonstration at the Legislature where top officials of the Turnbull Administration were preparing to present a government reorganization plan. They were joined by members of the Police Benevolent Association, and the International Seafarers Union.
As a result of the demonstration the Attorney General Iver Stridiron recommended that Chief-of-Staff Juel Molloy delay her arrival at the Legislature, slated for 9:30 a.m. to present the Governor's Reorganization Plan. Stridiron said he had been jostled by the crowd and was concerned for Molloy's safety.
As a result the hearing was recessed finally at 10:30 and rescheduled for 1 p.m.
Objections to the proposed reorganization and other administration policies also led to a walkout Friday by teachers at the Bertha C. Boschulte Middle School. Principal Carver Farrow said employees taking part in that protest were frustrated after media reports of a list of raises and promotions approved by Government House for 37 government workers.

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