May 5, 2003 – In the midst of finalizing a detailed proposal for complying with educator certification mandates of the federal No Child Left Behind Act, the V.I. Board of Education has become mired in internal bickering.
The board met in special session last Wednesday, a meeting called by the acting chair, Harry Daniel, for the purpose of discussing upcoming public hearings on the Draft Professional Staff Certification Regulation document.
The lengthy document addresses certification requirements for school teachers, deputy superintendents, principals, vice principals, specialists, directors, supervisors, coordinators, other staff and substitute teachers. It lays out the conditions to be met for the board to issue Class I professional educator (those with master's degrees), Class II professional educator (those with bachelor's degrees) and Substitute Teacher Pool certificates.
Teacher certification and the adequacy of substitute teacher resources also are issues in the territory's efforts to attain re-accreditation for the three public high schools that had their accreditation terminated by the Middle States Association of Colleges and Schools in 2001. (The fourth has never been accredited.)
By law, the board consists of nine members. Seven were present: Daniel, Jorge Galiber, Terrence D. Joseph, Claudette Petersen, Keith Richards, Malik Sekou and Linda Thomas. Yvonne Henry was absent. The ninth seat became vacant last month with the death of Gerald E. Hodge Sr.
When four of the members — Galiber, Joseph, Petersen and Sekou — moved to elect officers at the meeting — the other three — Daniel, Richards and Thomas — walked out. The remaining four proceeded with the election, choosing Joseph as vice chair, a position that became vacant in March when the board voted to oust Galiber as chair, thereby elevating Daniel, then vice chair, to the post of acting chair; and electing Sekou as secretary, a position previously held by Hodge.
In a release from the school board issued on Sunday, Daniel said a vote had been taken at the special meeting to amend the agenda to add "a discussion item on internal organization, administration and functioning." But after the vote, the four board members "immediately proceeded to move for an election of officers."
Daniel said he then called a recess and met with Richards and Thomas and they agreed that "some members were attempting to break the board's bylaws." He said the three then decided to "break the quorum by not returning to the meeting." Daniel also stated in the release that it had been decided in March to hold election of officers at the regular meeting set for May 17.
Daniel contends the actions taken by the four are null and void because there was not a quorum — a majority of the board, or five members — present.
Sekou, however, said there was a quorum, and Galiber and Petersen agreed, according to a report in Monday's V.I. Daily News. At issue, apparently, is whether, once a quorum is established, the specified minimum number of persons must remain seated, or whether a lesser number can then conduct business.
According to the Daily News, Sekou said the four members did not know that the other three were not going to return to the meeting and that a motion was on the floor when the recess was called.
In addition to electing the two officers, the remaining four members also voted to form a committee to look into Galiber's ouster and into a complaint against Evadney Hodge, the board executive director.
Before its next regular meeting, at 10 a.m. May 17 on St. Croix, the board is scheduled to hold five other meetings:
At 9:30 a.m. Tuesday, it is to meet in the St. Croix board office for an appeal hearing.
At 6 p.m. Tuesday, it is to hold a town meeting at St. Croix Educational Complex to hear public comments on the draft educator certification regulations.
At 9:30 a.m. Wednesday, it is to meet at the St. Croix board office for a complaint hearing.
At 6 p.m. Thursday, it is to conduct a St. Thomas town meeting on the certification regulations at Charlotte Amalie High School.
At 6 p.m. Friday, it is to conduct a St. John town meeting on the certification regulations at Julius E. Sprauve School.
The draft certification document is posted online at the University of the Virgin Islands Infotech Web site. Print copies are available for review at the public libraries, the UVI libraries on the St. Thomas and St. Croix campuses, and the Education Department Curriculum Centers on the two islands.
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