Aug. 4, 2004 – With three weeks remaining before the new academic year begins, the Senate Education and Youth Committee was told on Wednesday that school repairs slated for the summer are 80 percent completed.
In a continuation of its Monday hearing on St. Croix, the committee took testimony from Education Department, Board of Education and Board of Vocational Education officials on the status of education in the territory.
A third hearing is scheduled for 10 a.m. Thursday on St. John.
"All the schools in the Virgin Islands will be ready," Louis Hughes, Education director of plant operations and maintenance, told the committee on Wednesday.
Each of the two districts was allocated $500,000 for repairs over the summer, and Hughes said the money has been utilized appropriately.
In the St. Thomas-St. John district, two major projects completed were the paving of the Charlotte Amalie High School entrance and the installation of a new sewage line at Ivanna Eudora Kean High School.
Education Commissioner Noreen Michael told the senators that 67 vacancies have occurred in the St. Thomas-St. John district with the retirement of 24 professional and 19 support staff, the resignation of 13 professional and eight support staff, and three other types of separation.
She said offers have been accepted to fill 22 of the professional vacancies, and the department is reviewing several other applicants.
The department is also continuing its efforts towards accreditation of the high schools and compliance with the agreement between the V.I. government and the U.S. Department of Education, she said.
Michael said evaluation teams from the Commission on Secondary Schools of the Middle States Association of Colleges and Schools, the body that accredits the territory's high schools, will be visiting CAHS in October and Eudora Kean in November.
"We are confident that these visits will be positive," she said.
Board of Vocational Education
Eddie Williams, who chairs the Board of Vocational Education, told the committee that the Senate needs to do more to ensure the viability of vocational education in the territory.
"There is a myth in the Virgin Islands that vocational education is for people who are not as intelligent as others, but they are smart with their hands," Williams said. "This myth needs to be abolished."
Lena Schulterbrandt, vice chair of the Vocational Education Board, said the program is dying due to lack of funding, low priority, block scheduling and graduation requirements.
Enrollment at the Education Complex Vocational School on St. Croix is down due to recent changes in graduation requirements made by the Board of Education, Williams said. He said the changes have forced vocational and technical students to drop out of their vocational classes in order to meet other requirements for their high school diplomas.
"The Vocational Board feels that every child should graduate with a marketable skill," Williams said. "We have within our vocational programs the foundation that can lead to exciting careers for our children."
Sen. Louis Hill asked Williams what he thought of his efforts to establish a Job Corps program on St. Croix. Williams said the federal Job Corps is a good program but he has concerns about establishing one on St. Croix. Williams said the Senate should instead focus on investing in the current vocational education program.
Board of Education
Harry Daniel, Board of Education chair, said the board certified 287 teachers last fiscal year and for this year it has reviewed 300 teachers and found 210 candidates who appear to satisfy the certification requirements. At the board's July meeting, 62 of those persons were certified, he said.
Daniel said the holdup for the other candidates is that many of them have not taken the PRAXIS, a teacher proficiency exam, or have failed it.
He also said the board is pleased at the Education Department's efforts in establishing an alternative education program at the former Edith Williams Elementary School for the 2004-2005 school year. "This is a promising step to address the needs of many of our students who are not succeeding in the traditional setting," he said.
For an account of Monday's hearing on St. Croix, see "Education Failings, Accomplishments Laid Out".
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