I was the Itinerant Music Teacher at Guy Benjamin School for 10 years prior to my departure in 1992. At that time, maintenance and repairs was an issue, however, most situations were resolved in a timely manner, so teachers and students could spend more time on task teaching and learning.
Today, I am saddened to speak with parents and former co-workers regarding the current climate of neglect at this school that has many at-risk youth and is distanced. The Department of Education on St. Thomas, which is responsible for its operations and staffing as a whole but, has fallen short on providing basics needs. I understand that in addition to unsafe building standards and codes, the school is still lacking the Special Education teacher needed for its qualified students who must travel to Cruz Bay now for its program. These are the students least likely to be able to travel unsupervised and need constant parental support and yet they and their parents are inconvenienced to have to travel across the island each and every day.
I continue to read about drugs and violence in the community, which is not surprising when the adults in charge are sending the message that our youth are not important enough to supply the basic amenities of their St. Thomas and stateside counterparts.
How much longer do you think you can short change the youth without serious repercussions? The world is a competitive place and our children must be competent and confident to succeed, anything less we know can strain on the entire populace as unemployed youth turn to violence and crime to survive.
Stock library shelves, repair leaking roofs, termite infested boards, leaking plumbing, and broken furniture. Make the students a priority before it's too late, if it isn't already! Mr. Guy Benjamin has dedicated so much of his life to the students and is testimony of a time when education WAS the greatest priority!
Governor Charles Turnbull was Commissioner of Education when I started so he knows best what is needed. Rather than point fingers and give lip service, let's see some action from those in power. Perhaps, your elected officials will take their jobs seriously enough to remedy this problem. Meantime, you are facing a severe teacher shortage if conditions do not improve. Kudos to the active PTO who is courageous enough to confront the powers that be as an advocate for the youth and for V.I. Source for publishing this important story.
"It takes a whole village to raise a child." – African proverb. God Bless you all, One Love,
Los Angeles, Cal.
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