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HomeNewsArchivesSenate Committee Sends Unfavorable Recommendation for Spampinato

Senate Committee Sends Unfavorable Recommendation for Spampinato

Oct. 9, 2007 — At the end of a nearly 11-hour hearing Tuesday, members of the Rules and Judiciary Committee voted to send acting Education Commissioner Lynn Spampinato's nomination to the full legislative body with an unfavorable recommendation.
Voting in favor of the unfavorable recommendation were Sens. Shawn-Michael Malone, Usie R. Richards, James Weber III, Carmen M. Wesselhoft, Celestino A. White Sr. and Alvin L. Williams.
Sen. Carlton "Ital" Dowe voted against it.
The full Senate body will now take a final vote on Spampinato's nomination during a two-day session scheduled for the end of next week.
Senators didn't hold back their concerns or opinions Tuesday evening, as they peppered Spampinato with questions about her past job performance, her possible connection with the territory's third-party fiduciary and a confidential agreement with one Pittsburgh school district.
Before the questions started, Spampinato addressed many of the controversial issues in a statement she read before the committee and the large group of community members and Education officials packed in the Earle B. Ottley Legislative Chambers. Spampinato said her work in Pittsburgh was geared to turning around the public school system, and focused on reforming curriculum standards, establishing new school programs and offering development training for teachers.
"Although I left Pittsburgh for personal reasons, I remain on consulting contract through April 2008," she said. "On Oct. 1, I submitted a report to the Pittsburgh Public Schools that included recommendations for career and technical education in the city's public school system. Like many superintendents in the U.S., consulting is allowed in their contracts and does not infringe on the work of their present position."
When pressed for details about her agreement with the Pittsburgh district, Spampinato reiterated that the contract is confidential. When asked what she would lose if she violated the agreement, Spampinato said simply, "My integrity."
Looking over her employment history, several senators questioned why Spampinato had held a variety of jobs over the past few years. In many instances, she explained, she was hired as a reform agent, tasked with achieving a short-term turnaround within many troubled school districts. Trying to address senators' concerns about her work within the St. Louis public school system, Spampinato explained that several district board changes eventually led to a state takeover of the public schools.
Later in the meeting, one of the district's former board members, Ronald Jackson, explained that prior to the takeover, the district also sought to eliminate a $65 million budget deficit by cutting such expenses as the high-paid salaries of top education officials.
In her statement, Spampinato also explained that before coming to St. Thomas, she had not worked for Alvarez and Marsal, the firm hired by the local government to track how the Education Department spends its federal funds.
"I have never worked with Alvarez and Marsal, and prior to coming to Virgin Islands, I had never met Karen Marsal (the territory's third-party fiduciary)," she said.
One testifier disagreed, saying Spampinato worked hand-in-hand with the firm in hopes of privatizing the St. Louis public schools.
"This all begins with Alvarez and Marsal, who swaggered into our district with the absolute reassurance that they would be welcomed as liberators," said St. Louis teacher and talk-show host Lizz Brown. At the end of her presentation, Brown said Spampinato "jumped ship" after three years, when the district was moving ahead with its accreditation efforts.
Jackson and his wife Hattie disagreed, saying Spampinato was hired after Alvarez and Marsal was brought in to take over the school district's finances.
"Lynn was hired to do the academic turnaround," he explained. "She came in August of 2004, and in a year and a half, we had a new elementary, middle and high school curriculum, she had trained all the teachers in the new curriculum … and had negotiated with the business community to bring in some new resources into the system. Plus, she isn't scared to work as long as it takes to get the job done. And if you support her, you can get a first-class education system in the Virgin Islands."
Earlier in the hearing, Spampinato made similar remarks, saying that creating a model public school system in the Virgin Islands is her top priority. Speaking candidly about some of the problems facing the territory's schools, Spampinato explained that immediate goals include creating a uniform curriculum, developing vocational education programs and facilities and properly managing the spending of local and federal funds.
The U.S. Department of Education is keeping a close watch on the territory, she said, and it is imperative that its local counterpart begin working on spending its federal funds properly, and in line with certain requirements.
"There is a tremendous amount of work ahead to remedy this situation," Spampinato said. "It is common knowledge that our federal funds are managed by a third-party fiduciary, Alvarez and Marsal. Our lost funds for last school year are estimated at $2.4 million. The intent of these federal dollars is to supplement local expenditures. We need to plan and spend, and spend according to the plan."
Making sure local teachers are properly qualified is another immediate goal, she added, saying that possible recruits are often deterred by the $28,000 starting salary offered by the government.
Keeping local dollars in the hands of school principals is also important, she said. Spampinato explained that about $40,000 has already been placed in each school's imprest accounts, and can be used to handle in-school emergencies or cover smaller, needed purchases. Financial officers will also be placed in each school to keep tabs on how the funds are spent, she added.
Though things such as low test scores and a variety of school-maintenance projects also top the list of issues that need to be addressed, Spampinato remained positive about her ability to build up the local public school system.
"Recently some have asked me if I believe that the Virgin Islands school system is in crisis," she said. "My response remains the same: The U.S. school system is in crisis, and the USVI can follow the demand for reformation, or it can lead the way."
Present during Tuesday's meeting were Sens. Liston Davis, Carlton "Ital" Dowe, Juan Figueroa-Serville, Louis P. Hill, Neville James, Norman Jn Baptiste, Shawn-Michael Malone, Basil Ottley Jr., Usie R. Richards, Ronald E. Russell, James Weber III, Carmen M. Wesselhoft, Celestino A. White Sr. and Alvin L. Williams.
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Oct. 9, 2007 -- At the end of a nearly 11-hour hearing Tuesday, members of the Rules and Judiciary Committee voted to send acting Education Commissioner Lynn Spampinato's nomination to the full legislative body with an unfavorable recommendation.
Voting in favor of the unfavorable recommendation were Sens. Shawn-Michael Malone, Usie R. Richards, James Weber III, Carmen M. Wesselhoft, Celestino A. White Sr. and Alvin L. Williams.
Sen. Carlton "Ital" Dowe voted against it.
The full Senate body will now take a final vote on Spampinato's nomination during a two-day session scheduled for the end of next week.
Senators didn't hold back their concerns or opinions Tuesday evening, as they peppered Spampinato with questions about her past job performance, her possible connection with the territory's third-party fiduciary and a confidential agreement with one Pittsburgh school district.
Before the questions started, Spampinato addressed many of the controversial issues in a statement she read before the committee and the large group of community members and Education officials packed in the Earle B. Ottley Legislative Chambers. Spampinato said her work in Pittsburgh was geared to turning around the public school system, and focused on reforming curriculum standards, establishing new school programs and offering development training for teachers.
"Although I left Pittsburgh for personal reasons, I remain on consulting contract through April 2008," she said. "On Oct. 1, I submitted a report to the Pittsburgh Public Schools that included recommendations for career and technical education in the city's public school system. Like many superintendents in the U.S., consulting is allowed in their contracts and does not infringe on the work of their present position."
When pressed for details about her agreement with the Pittsburgh district, Spampinato reiterated that the contract is confidential. When asked what she would lose if she violated the agreement, Spampinato said simply, "My integrity."
Looking over her employment history, several senators questioned why Spampinato had held a variety of jobs over the past few years. In many instances, she explained, she was hired as a reform agent, tasked with achieving a short-term turnaround within many troubled school districts. Trying to address senators' concerns about her work within the St. Louis public school system, Spampinato explained that several district board changes eventually led to a state takeover of the public schools.
Later in the meeting, one of the district's former board members, Ronald Jackson, explained that prior to the takeover, the district also sought to eliminate a $65 million budget deficit by cutting such expenses as the high-paid salaries of top education officials.
In her statement, Spampinato also explained that before coming to St. Thomas, she had not worked for Alvarez and Marsal, the firm hired by the local government to track how the Education Department spends its federal funds.
"I have never worked with Alvarez and Marsal, and prior to coming to Virgin Islands, I had never met Karen Marsal (the territory's third-party fiduciary)," she said.
One testifier disagreed, saying Spampinato worked hand-in-hand with the firm in hopes of privatizing the St. Louis public schools.
"This all begins with Alvarez and Marsal, who swaggered into our district with the absolute reassurance that they would be welcomed as liberators," said St. Louis teacher and talk-show host Lizz Brown. At the end of her presentation, Brown said Spampinato "jumped ship" after three years, when the district was moving ahead with its accreditation efforts.
Jackson and his wife Hattie disagreed, saying Spampinato was hired after Alvarez and Marsal was brought in to take over the school district's finances.
"Lynn was hired to do the academic turnaround," he explained. "She came in August of 2004, and in a year and a half, we had a new elementary, middle and high school curriculum, she had trained all the teachers in the new curriculum ... and had negotiated with the business community to bring in some new resources into the system. Plus, she isn't scared to work as long as it takes to get the job done. And if you support her, you can get a first-class education system in the Virgin Islands."
Earlier in the hearing, Spampinato made similar remarks, saying that creating a model public school system in the Virgin Islands is her top priority. Speaking candidly about some of the problems facing the territory's schools, Spampinato explained that immediate goals include creating a uniform curriculum, developing vocational education programs and facilities and properly managing the spending of local and federal funds.
The U.S. Department of Education is keeping a close watch on the territory, she said, and it is imperative that its local counterpart begin working on spending its federal funds properly, and in line with certain requirements.
"There is a tremendous amount of work ahead to remedy this situation," Spampinato said. "It is common knowledge that our federal funds are managed by a third-party fiduciary, Alvarez and Marsal. Our lost funds for last school year are estimated at $2.4 million. The intent of these federal dollars is to supplement local expenditures. We need to plan and spend, and spend according to the plan."
Making sure local teachers are properly qualified is another immediate goal, she added, saying that possible recruits are often deterred by the $28,000 starting salary offered by the government.
Keeping local dollars in the hands of school principals is also important, she said. Spampinato explained that about $40,000 has already been placed in each school's imprest accounts, and can be used to handle in-school emergencies or cover smaller, needed purchases. Financial officers will also be placed in each school to keep tabs on how the funds are spent, she added.
Though things such as low test scores and a variety of school-maintenance projects also top the list of issues that need to be addressed, Spampinato remained positive about her ability to build up the local public school system.
"Recently some have asked me if I believe that the Virgin Islands school system is in crisis," she said. "My response remains the same: The U.S. school system is in crisis, and the USVI can follow the demand for reformation, or it can lead the way."
Present during Tuesday's meeting were Sens. Liston Davis, Carlton "Ital" Dowe, Juan Figueroa-Serville, Louis P. Hill, Neville James, Norman Jn Baptiste, Shawn-Michael Malone, Basil Ottley Jr., Usie R. Richards, Ronald E. Russell, James Weber III, Carmen M. Wesselhoft, Celestino A. White Sr. and Alvin L. Williams.
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.