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Most Schools Need Building Work, Education Chairman Says

March 12, 2007 — Sen. Liston Davis wrapped up his tours of St. Croix schools Monday, concluding that although many learning intuitions have systemic problems, the administrations do a good job.
The campuses are clean, vandalism is down and the environment is "conducive to learning," according to Davis, the Senate education chairman. Davis toured the Eulalie Rivera Professional Development School, the Evelyn Williams Elementary School and the St. Croix Career and Technical Center.
Most of the schools on island, including those three, have systemic problems: inadequate building maintenance, electrical and plumbing concerns and a pervasive need for increased parental involvement.
Parking lot flooding continues to be a problem for the Rivera School, officials told Davis. When rain water pools in the parking area, it runs into the cafeteria, causing flooding. At the Williams Elementary School, the clean and manicured campus lacks many hallway lights in the corridors leading to the classrooms.
A quick check of the boys' and girls' bathrooms revealed clean facilities, with no bathroom tissue in the stalls. Several first- and second-grade girls enter carrying hand soap and tissue. "It's worked out well for the teacher to have these supplies," said Principal Carlos McGregor. "You find it on the ceiling and in the toilet" if it's left in the bathroom, he said.
Several principals said they would like more flexibility in spending the Education Initiative Fund, also known as the Impress Fund, Davis said. They want to be able to use the funds for programs in addition to maintenance, he said. Principals have also requested additional staff members in the form of computer technicians, data-entry personnel and a fiscal officer.
Principal Anastasie Jackson and Assistant Principal Denstun Bacchus led a tour of the St. Croix Career and Technical Education Center (SCTEC), showing off their campus and its more than 30 programs, including carpentry, electronics, auto mechanics, cosmetology and nursing.
"We are the linkage between high school and the world," Bacchus said. "We provide the education for a trained labor force."
SCTEC administration spoke about the challenges posed by academic graduation requirements and the need for every student to have career training when they complete high school. If a student does not have the required amount of academic credits before graduation, they usually forgo their vocational training. One way to overcome the problem would be to offer technical students science and math credits for classes such as instrumentation and electronics, Jackson said.
"The importance of career and technical education needs to come from the very top," Jackson said, suggesting that a curriculum change may be necessary.
SCTEC needs paralleled those of other schools, Davis noted. It needs upgrades to the electrical system and air conditioning to protect and enhance the computer labs, replacement of hallway lighting and an overall increase in building maintenance. The school provides its own plumbing repairs, Jackson said.
Davis visited other St. Croix schools in February (See "Tour Reveals Extensive Problems at St. Croix Schools,") and plans to complete his assessment of the Education Department with visits to administration, maintenance and special-education offices.
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