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BILL WOULD PUT BOARD IN CHARGE OF EDUCATION

Dec. 29, 2001 – If three senators have their way, the troubled Education Department may be replaced by a Board of Education run by a nine-member territorial board.
Senate President Almando "Rocky" Liburd; Sen. Norman Jn Baptiste, who chairs the Legislature's Education Committee; and David Jones introduced the Public Education Reform Act of 2001 this week to restructure education in the territory.
The legislation would repeal the chapter of the V.I. Code that created the Education Department and establish in its place an independent board — comprising four members each from St. Thomas and St. Croix and one from St. John — and an Office of Public Education as the "administrative instrumentality of the board."
The board would have a status similar to those of the Port Authority and the Water and Power Authority. Its members would have to include one familiar with the vocational education needs of labor in the territory, another familiar with the vocational needs of management, and one representing the University of the Virgin Islands.
Board members would be elected by voters and serve four-year terms, as is the case with members of the current Board of Education.
Nine months after enactment of the bill, or as soon as is practicable giving consideration to the public school calendar, the board would have jurisdiction over the implementation of laws, orders, rules and regulations relating to public education.
The public school system would be headed by a superintendent hired by the board, assistant superintendents for each district, and, if authorized by the board, deputy superintendents. The Education Department has long been criticized in the Legislature and elsewhere for being top-heavy at the management level.
Jones and Liburd have been battling for this change in public education through three legislatures. In 1997, a bill reached a committee but then was lost in the shuffle. The last time such a measure was brought to the Senate, there was not enough time to schedule hearings.
This week Jones said, "The time has come." The current Board of Education agrees wholeheartedly. Last January, at the first meeting of the board elected in November 2000, Evadney Hodge, executive director, termed the entity a "toothless tiger" without governance of public education.
At the time, Hodge was blunt in her assessment of its prospects. "The board has tried, believe me, to offer input up to this point, but we are not going to beg to be included," she said. Hodge could not be reached for comment Saturday.
In its formal mission statement presented in January, the board said it will "promote the transformation of the structure of existing public education" through:
– Governance over the public education system.
– Improved student, parent, teacher relationships.
– Comprehensive community engagement.
– Standards that promote high academic achievement.
– An environment conducive to effective communication.
– Enhanced quality of professional development for all staff.
– Provision of adequate resources "to achieve our vision, goals and objectives."
Most of those goals, in one form or another, are covered in the current legislation, which establishes clearly that public education is not to be in the hands of the executive branch of government.
The bill removes teachers and other employees from the government's personnel merit system and gives the board final review of recommendations by the Superintendent of Public Education regarding the qualifications of teachers, librarians, supervisors, and other professional personnel. The bill specifies 14 areas which the board would control – basically "all aspects of education in the Virgin Islands."
At the Board of Education meeting in January, new member Malik Sekou said, "We anticipate a complex struggle to convince the American Federation of Teachers, the PTA, everyone, that this is the way to go, but it's not a one-shot deal." The transformation process "is going to take several years," he said.
The sponsors of the current bill don't see it that way. Jn Baptise has indicated he will schedule an Education Committee hearing on the proposal in January.
The bill also would establish an Education Fund to receive all legislative appropriations, grants and other money relating to education. The board would prepare its annual budget and submit it to the Legislature, as the Department of Education does now. It would control all federal education funds.
Another nine-member board, to be appointed by the governor and confirmed by the Legislature, would be created to advise the Board of Education on vocational education.
The bill has an entire chapter devoted to education opportunities for veterans, including programs, tuition, agreements with the Veterans Administration and transportation.

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Dec. 29, 2001 - If three senators have their way, the troubled Education Department may be replaced by a Board of Education run by a nine-member territorial board.
Senate President Almando "Rocky" Liburd; Sen. Norman Jn Baptiste, who chairs the Legislature's Education Committee; and David Jones introduced the Public Education Reform Act of 2001 this week to restructure education in the territory.
The legislation would repeal the chapter of the V.I. Code that created the Education Department and establish in its place an independent board -- comprising four members each from St. Thomas and St. Croix and one from St. John -- and an Office of Public Education as the "administrative instrumentality of the board."
The board would have a status similar to those of the Port Authority and the Water and Power Authority. Its members would have to include one familiar with the vocational education needs of labor in the territory, another familiar with the vocational needs of management, and one representing the University of the Virgin Islands.
Board members would be elected by voters and serve four-year terms, as is the case with members of the current Board of Education.
Nine months after enactment of the bill, or as soon as is practicable giving consideration to the public school calendar, the board would have jurisdiction over the implementation of laws, orders, rules and regulations relating to public education.
The public school system would be headed by a superintendent hired by the board, assistant superintendents for each district, and, if authorized by the board, deputy superintendents. The Education Department has long been criticized in the Legislature and elsewhere for being top-heavy at the management level.
Jones and Liburd have been battling for this change in public education through three legislatures. In 1997, a bill reached a committee but then was lost in the shuffle. The last time such a measure was brought to the Senate, there was not enough time to schedule hearings.
This week Jones said, "The time has come." The current Board of Education agrees wholeheartedly. Last January, at the first meeting of the board elected in November 2000, Evadney Hodge, executive director, termed the entity a "toothless tiger" without governance of public education.
At the time, Hodge was blunt in her assessment of its prospects. "The board has tried, believe me, to offer input up to this point, but we are not going to beg to be included," she said. Hodge could not be reached for comment Saturday.
In its formal mission statement presented in January, the board said it will "promote the transformation of the structure of existing public education" through:
- Governance over the public education system.
- Improved student, parent, teacher relationships.
- Comprehensive community engagement.
- Standards that promote high academic achievement.
- An environment conducive to effective communication.
- Enhanced quality of professional development for all staff.
- Provision of adequate resources "to achieve our vision, goals and objectives."
Most of those goals, in one form or another, are covered in the current legislation, which establishes clearly that public education is not to be in the hands of the executive branch of government.
The bill removes teachers and other employees from the government's personnel merit system and gives the board final review of recommendations by the Superintendent of Public Education regarding the qualifications of teachers, librarians, supervisors, and other professional personnel. The bill specifies 14 areas which the board would control – basically "all aspects of education in the Virgin Islands."
At the Board of Education meeting in January, new member Malik Sekou said, "We anticipate a complex struggle to convince the American Federation of Teachers, the PTA, everyone, that this is the way to go, but it's not a one-shot deal." The transformation process "is going to take several years," he said.
The sponsors of the current bill don't see it that way. Jn Baptise has indicated he will schedule an Education Committee hearing on the proposal in January.
The bill also would establish an Education Fund to receive all legislative appropriations, grants and other money relating to education. The board would prepare its annual budget and submit it to the Legislature, as the Department of Education does now. It would control all federal education funds.
Another nine-member board, to be appointed by the governor and confirmed by the Legislature, would be created to advise the Board of Education on vocational education.
The bill has an entire chapter devoted to education opportunities for veterans, including programs, tuition, agreements with the Veterans Administration and transportation.