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Charlotte Amalie
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Education and Davis Squabble Over Statements

Sept. 28, 2005 – Education Commissioner Noreen Michael evidently was not happy with her weekend reading material. On Tuesday she sent out a press release addressing allegations made by Sen. Liston Davis in an article published in the St. Croix Avis on Saturday.
Davis, contacted on Wednesday, said that he had not seen Michael's response but added, "I am happy that she responded. This seems to be the only way to get her to respond. You can call, leave messages and not get a response."
He confirmed that he did make the allegations that revolved around the failure of government officials to hire a third-party fiduciary to oversee federal funds for the Education Department. He said he stood by those allegations. However, he added that he did not want to comment in detail on Michael's release until he had a chance to read it and digest it.
The faults he placed at the feet of the V.I. Department of Education included:
— "the loss of almost $60,000,000."
— "twiddle their thumbs until the last moment, only submitting a final draft proposal to the federal Department of Education a week or so ago."
— "rob the children of the Virgin Islands by placing their self-interest above the education of our children."
— "many lies they deliberately told on this issue."
In her press release, Michael called the allegations unsubstantiated. She said, "The misrepresentation of the loss of $60,000,000 is an inaccurate portrayal of the current situation facing the V.I. Department of Education (VIDE). VIDE has not lost $60,000,000 in federal funds. To date, the Department has received $14,954,470…. The Department is currently awaiting the influx of $28,000,000 with the finalization of the third-party fiduciary implementation."
Davis said Wednesday, "What difference does it make whether it is $60 million, $50 million, $2 million or a penny? The Department of Education can ill afford to lose any money."
As to the charge that the Department of Education had wasted time and should already have a financial management system (FMS) in place, Michael responded: "The statement that the Virgin Islands Government (VIG) was made aware a year ago of a requirement for a new FMS by the end of the Compliance Agreement is also inaccurate. Although the U.S. Department of Education (ED) officials indicated in 2004 that there were concerns with respect to VIG’s progress on the cross-cutting issue of Financial Management and that if certain milestones were not met, there may be a need to engage a third-party Fiduciary, it was NOT until Undersecretary McPherson's correspondence dated June 17, 2005, that ED officially communicated to VIDE that the procurement of the services of third-party fiduciary agent would be a special condition for receiving new federal funds!"
Michael continued: "There was a delay in a response from the federal government; and finally because VIG had problems with several elements of what ED returned as a proposal, a meeting was requested. After several unsuccessful attempts, the VIG finally secured a meeting, which finally occurred on Thursday, Sept. 1, 2005. The VIG has not been able to finalize the language in the RFP (Request for Proposal) as the federal government has again, proposed changes to the most recently submitted draft of the RFP."
She concluded that argument: "It is unimaginable that the VIG is now being told that we dragged our feet, twiddled our thumbs and were nonchalant in handling the proposed arrangement. The deliberate and uncorroborated remarks made by Senator Davis that self interest is placed above the education of our children, is unconscionable."
As an overview of the allegations, she said, "Sen. Davis' improper characterization of the V.I. Government is uncalled for and unfair to those persons who daily work hard toward ensuring that each child in this territory is afforded and receives an education. To issue statements and allegations such as these is counter-productive to the progress made thus far and a discredit to all of our efforts toward taking public education to a higher level."
She added that, at this point, the U.S. Department of Education has not indicated that it was "displeased with the progress that the V.I. Department of Education had made in general with respect to the Compliance Agreement."
She explained, "The Compliance Agreement was an agreement between the V.I. government and the U.S. Department of Education, which involved several cross-cutting areas requiring the involvement of other stakeholders in the V.I. government, including the VI Board of Education, the Departments of Finance, Property and Procurement, and Health."
Her final words were that if Davis knew of any lies that were told by any member of the VIG Compliance Agreement Taskforce relative to the progress of the RFP and the subsequent hiring of the third party fiduciary, he should make them known.

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