Oct. 21. 2002 Parents of seniors at Ivanna Eudora Kean High School say they may take the Board of Education to court if it does not rescind its new graduation requirements.
Fourteen parents and one student showed up for the monthly Parents Teachers Students Association meeting at the school Monday night. More than four times that many showed up the month before when Gladstone Hazel, PTSA president, invited members of the board to explain why 12th-graders had to complete courses in computer literacy, speech, and developmental reading and writing before being allowed to receive their high school diplomas in May 2003.
On Monday Hazel delivered his message to a faithful core group that shows up monthly, no matter what. William Frett, district schools superintendent, also attended, urging parents to take collective action on behalf of their children.
The Board of Education was invited to send a representative, but no one appeared.
"The one voice the Department of Education has not heard is the unified voice of parents," Frett said. He said that he wouldn't direct the parents into any given action, that it was up to them to decide what was best.
Frett repeated his concerns that while the Board of Education finally ordered the requirements changed to include the three classes, there were not enough teachers, money or resources to make it happen for a portion of the estimated 600 public high school seniors in the St. Thomas-St. John school district.
Hazel urged the group to act in conjunction with parents from Charlotte Amalie High School and to do it quickly. "Let's act now and don't get crazy later," he said.
The PTSA president said he already has been in contact with a lawyer in case the group decides to take the Board of Education to court. He also announced his intention to spread the word about changing graduation requirements this week by making appeals over local radio talk shows.
After the meeting he was asked about a comment by Board of Education member Linda Thomas, who said earlier this month that 80 percent of incoming freshmen at the University of the Virgin Islands, where she teaches, have to take remedial reading and writing courses, even though some graduated high school as honor students.
Hazel said he agreed something should be done, but he objected to the way the plan was being implemented into the current school year.
Officials of the board told parents at the last meeting they had first voted to adopt the three classes in 1996 and pressed for implementation in 2001, when the Department of Education persuaded them to waive the requirements and allow the class of 2002 to graduate.
Frett said he would like to see the provision waived again and start preparing students in next year's senior class to meet the requirements now in their junior year.
Greg Allen, 17, sat quietly at the back of the group at the PTSA meeting in the high school library. "I don't think they should have them," he said of the three class requirements. "I think they should drop them and take it up with the ninth grade."
The 12th-grader described himself as a "B" student. Until the new course requirements surfaced a few weeks ago, he said, he thought graduation day would come along uneventfully.
Vincent Matthew, the lone father at the meeting, said he had similar expectations for his 17-year-old son, Amoise, whom he called a "pretty good" student, now in his senior year. Matthew asked Frett: "If we can't get through to the Board of Education, what will become of our children going to school?"
The superintendent replied, "I don't know."
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