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No Quick Fix for Problems with Schools, Spampinato Says

Oct. 3, 2007 — There’s no simple answer to fixing the territory’s schools. That message resounded with a group of teachers, administrators and parents meeting with acting Education Commissioner Lynn Spampinato Wednesday evening in the first of her “Let’s Talk” forums, held at the Educational Curriculum Center on St. Croix.
“If there was a simple answer, everyone would be doing it,” Spampinato said, repeating the phrase several times to emphasize the monumental task ahead for the Department of Education. About 35 people assembled to ask questions and get answers about the school system. Most were teachers, asking about curriculum, library services and other classroom-related issues.
Schools need to concentrate on learning methods that relate to the world around them and stimulate their learning, Spampinato said.
“We need to look at how we teach reading,” she said. "We need to teach for information.”
To encourage excellence, the schools need biotechnical programs, computerized automotive programs, robotics and entrepreneurial programs, Spampinato said.
“Where is our school for civil service, run by police, fire, EMT and forensic (professionals)?” Spampinato asked. "The vocational school does not have the technical equipment it needs to teach the students."
She told the group of a school on the mainland where General Motors equipped the automotive program, and said she was disheartened to see the lack of equipment at the vocational school: “I literally walked out in tears.”
Building international, national and local partnerships could help improve the school system, Spampinato said.
Carl Christopher asked the acting commissioner to address the problem of young black men dropping out of school because the system cannot relate to them.
In Philadelphia, Spampinato said, she opened an all-boys and all-girls school. Although there are no plans to do that in the territory, the present system does not work in many places, she said.
“The middle school piece has not worked," she said. "Kindergarten through 8th grade schools work better.”
She also shared her thoughts on including culturally significant curriculum in the schools: "Our children live in a culturally rich environment, and that culture needs to be enforced in the curriculum from kindergarten.”
Another problem Spampinato has encountered is the bureaucracy surrounding procurement of school supplies and equipment, characterizing it as like digging for "a needle in a haystack." She is looking into money for the Educational Complex track, air conditioning for the gym and other projects funded by the Legislature.
“Do you know why a request for proposal did not get in the newspaper?” she asked the audience. “Because we did not pay the bill to the newspaper.”
The acting commissioner said she has worked in districts with complex procurement systems, “but we could hold our people accountable," she said. She continued, "But here it’s the government” that is in charge of procurement.
Spampinato also addressed replacing old classroom furniture. Instead of doing one class at several schools, she wants to complete each school before going on to another.
“When we go back to the Legislature we can say we furnished four schools, and then get funds to do more,” she said.
The problem of violence in schools also came up.
“We can't say school violence is a police problem only," Spampinato said. "… we need to get the security lights and cameras working.”
School monitors need additional training, she said: “They need to defuse, not escalate; to restrain, not hurt.”
One Central High teacher said wearing school badges must be enforced to help control unauthorized access to the school and even be checked inside the schools for access to the libraries and other areas.
A parent brought up the recurring problem of student athletes not having funds to travel. When they are able to attend off-island events, they are required to purchase their own food. That will not happen again, Spampinato said.
Gary Molloy, superintendent for St. Croix, said schools are now required to submit their sports budgets for the entire year.
Educational Complex teacher Oceana James said talking to the students could produce insightful answers to the situations facing education today.
“Part of finding the solution is to talk to the children, 'cause they have a whole lot to say,” she said.
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Oct. 3, 2007 -- There’s no simple answer to fixing the territory’s schools. That message resounded with a group of teachers, administrators and parents meeting with acting Education Commissioner Lynn Spampinato Wednesday evening in the first of her “Let’s Talk” forums, held at the Educational Curriculum Center on St. Croix.
“If there was a simple answer, everyone would be doing it,” Spampinato said, repeating the phrase several times to emphasize the monumental task ahead for the Department of Education. About 35 people assembled to ask questions and get answers about the school system. Most were teachers, asking about curriculum, library services and other classroom-related issues.
Schools need to concentrate on learning methods that relate to the world around them and stimulate their learning, Spampinato said.
“We need to look at how we teach reading,” she said. "We need to teach for information.”
To encourage excellence, the schools need biotechnical programs, computerized automotive programs, robotics and entrepreneurial programs, Spampinato said.
“Where is our school for civil service, run by police, fire, EMT and forensic (professionals)?” Spampinato asked. "The vocational school does not have the technical equipment it needs to teach the students."
She told the group of a school on the mainland where General Motors equipped the automotive program, and said she was disheartened to see the lack of equipment at the vocational school: “I literally walked out in tears.”
Building international, national and local partnerships could help improve the school system, Spampinato said.
Carl Christopher asked the acting commissioner to address the problem of young black men dropping out of school because the system cannot relate to them.
In Philadelphia, Spampinato said, she opened an all-boys and all-girls school. Although there are no plans to do that in the territory, the present system does not work in many places, she said.
“The middle school piece has not worked," she said. "Kindergarten through 8th grade schools work better.”
She also shared her thoughts on including culturally significant curriculum in the schools: "Our children live in a culturally rich environment, and that culture needs to be enforced in the curriculum from kindergarten.”
Another problem Spampinato has encountered is the bureaucracy surrounding procurement of school supplies and equipment, characterizing it as like digging for "a needle in a haystack." She is looking into money for the Educational Complex track, air conditioning for the gym and other projects funded by the Legislature.
“Do you know why a request for proposal did not get in the newspaper?” she asked the audience. “Because we did not pay the bill to the newspaper.”
The acting commissioner said she has worked in districts with complex procurement systems, “but we could hold our people accountable," she said. She continued, "But here it’s the government” that is in charge of procurement.
Spampinato also addressed replacing old classroom furniture. Instead of doing one class at several schools, she wants to complete each school before going on to another.
“When we go back to the Legislature we can say we furnished four schools, and then get funds to do more,” she said.
The problem of violence in schools also came up.
“We can't say school violence is a police problem only," Spampinato said. "... we need to get the security lights and cameras working.”
School monitors need additional training, she said: “They need to defuse, not escalate; to restrain, not hurt.”
One Central High teacher said wearing school badges must be enforced to help control unauthorized access to the school and even be checked inside the schools for access to the libraries and other areas.
A parent brought up the recurring problem of student athletes not having funds to travel. When they are able to attend off-island events, they are required to purchase their own food. That will not happen again, Spampinato said.
Gary Molloy, superintendent for St. Croix, said schools are now required to submit their sports budgets for the entire year.
Educational Complex teacher Oceana James said talking to the students could produce insightful answers to the situations facing education today.
“Part of finding the solution is to talk to the children, 'cause they have a whole lot to say,” she said.
Back Talk Share your reaction to this news with other Source readers. Please include headline, your name and city and state/country or island where you reside.