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Board of Ed OKs Hike for Travel Expenses, Certifies 31 Teachers

May 3, 2008 — The V.I. Board of Education increased their travel per diem from $75 to $175 during their regular meeting Saturday on St. Croix.
The previous default standard of $50 for incidentals and $25 for transportation was established by the Department of Finance. The per diem covers food, travel necessities, taxis and other ground transportation. Processing receipts for reimbursement to traveling board members and staff has been a problem, Chairwoman Debra Smith-Watlington said.
Voting yea were Smith-Watlington, Terrence D. Joseph, Jorge "Tito" Galiber, Keith Richards, Oswin Sewer Sr. and Judy M. Gomez. Shawn Gibson and Nereida O'Reilly voted no. Nandi Sekou was absent.
Board member Shawn Gibson moved to disallow any reimbursement for expenses of more than the new per diem, but failed by a vote of five to three.
Gibson argued disallowing any greater expenses would simplify accounting. Others countered there had to be flexibility.
"I'm concerned about it being written so black and white," board member Jorge "Tito" Galiber said. "So many types of emergencies might develop. … In 2001 a group had to stay a whole week because President (George W.) Bush canceled all air flights."
Controls on reimbursement are already in place, board member Oswin Sewer argued.
"You can't just submit receipts if you go over for whatever reason," he said. "It has to be justified."
Voting no on Gibson's motion to disallow any reimbursements above the per diem were Galiber, Sewer, Gomez, Richards and Smith-Watlington. Voting yea were Gibson, Rivera-O'Reilly and Joseph. Sekou was absent.
Gibson and Smith-Watlington insisted the change in per diem was the not the result of any past improprieties.
"We are closing a loophole," Gibson said. "We are not singling anyone out. … My concern is not from any suggestion of impropriety."
The board also certified 31 teachers, chipping away at its goal of certifying every teacher. On St. Croix, 18 teachers received 21 separate certifications, and on St. Thomas 13 teachers received 13 certifications. Similar numbers of teachers have been certified during most regular Board of Education meetings.
Under the federal No Child Left Behind Act, all states and territories must have all their teachers certified as "highly qualified." Eventually, if too many teachers remain uncertified, federal money for education in the territory will be cut.
As of December 2007, less than 50 percent of V.I. teachers were so certified, though that does not mean they are unqualified. Some teachers insist the certification process has been inefficient and cumbersome. Currently, the Board of Education's certification committee checks the credentials of teachers applying for certification and the full board votes to approve the committee's list. Saturday's certification slate was approved by unanimous consent.
The board has also implemented Praxis II exams in support of certification. The Praxis exams are local versions of nationally recognized teacher certification tests. Praxis II tests are more rigorous than the old Praxis I tests and are customized for the needs of the particular educational district.
The board has been buying Praxis study guides and is making a library of study materials for teachers to use, said Carol O'Bryan Henneman, the board's executive director.
Henneman reported 353 teachers have applied for an alternative route to certification for veteran teachers: The Highly Objective, Uniform, Standard State Evaluation (HOUSSE) is an alternative, expedited certification mechanism defined by the federal No Child Left Behind Act. The board is implementing a local version of the HOUSSE and is working out the mechanics of the review. The logistics of arranging for close classroom observation and evaluation of hundreds of teachers over a short time frame is one challenging part of the task.
"Retired teachers can help with observation and review of teacher's portfolios," Henneman said. "But the number applying is way too many for them to do by the end of May, which is our target."
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May 3, 2008 -- The V.I. Board of Education increased their travel per diem from $75 to $175 during their regular meeting Saturday on St. Croix.
The previous default standard of $50 for incidentals and $25 for transportation was established by the Department of Finance. The per diem covers food, travel necessities, taxis and other ground transportation. Processing receipts for reimbursement to traveling board members and staff has been a problem, Chairwoman Debra Smith-Watlington said.
Voting yea were Smith-Watlington, Terrence D. Joseph, Jorge "Tito" Galiber, Keith Richards, Oswin Sewer Sr. and Judy M. Gomez. Shawn Gibson and Nereida O'Reilly voted no. Nandi Sekou was absent.
Board member Shawn Gibson moved to disallow any reimbursement for expenses of more than the new per diem, but failed by a vote of five to three.
Gibson argued disallowing any greater expenses would simplify accounting. Others countered there had to be flexibility.
"I'm concerned about it being written so black and white," board member Jorge "Tito" Galiber said. "So many types of emergencies might develop. … In 2001 a group had to stay a whole week because President (George W.) Bush canceled all air flights."
Controls on reimbursement are already in place, board member Oswin Sewer argued.
"You can't just submit receipts if you go over for whatever reason," he said. "It has to be justified."
Voting no on Gibson's motion to disallow any reimbursements above the per diem were Galiber, Sewer, Gomez, Richards and Smith-Watlington. Voting yea were Gibson, Rivera-O'Reilly and Joseph. Sekou was absent.
Gibson and Smith-Watlington insisted the change in per diem was the not the result of any past improprieties.
"We are closing a loophole," Gibson said. "We are not singling anyone out. … My concern is not from any suggestion of impropriety."
The board also certified 31 teachers, chipping away at its goal of certifying every teacher. On St. Croix, 18 teachers received 21 separate certifications, and on St. Thomas 13 teachers received 13 certifications. Similar numbers of teachers have been certified during most regular Board of Education meetings.
Under the federal No Child Left Behind Act, all states and territories must have all their teachers certified as "highly qualified." Eventually, if too many teachers remain uncertified, federal money for education in the territory will be cut.
As of December 2007, less than 50 percent of V.I. teachers were so certified, though that does not mean they are unqualified. Some teachers insist the certification process has been inefficient and cumbersome. Currently, the Board of Education's certification committee checks the credentials of teachers applying for certification and the full board votes to approve the committee's list. Saturday's certification slate was approved by unanimous consent.
The board has also implemented Praxis II exams in support of certification. The Praxis exams are local versions of nationally recognized teacher certification tests. Praxis II tests are more rigorous than the old Praxis I tests and are customized for the needs of the particular educational district.
The board has been buying Praxis study guides and is making a library of study materials for teachers to use, said Carol O'Bryan Henneman, the board's executive director.
Henneman reported 353 teachers have applied for an alternative route to certification for veteran teachers: The Highly Objective, Uniform, Standard State Evaluation (HOUSSE) is an alternative, expedited certification mechanism defined by the federal No Child Left Behind Act. The board is implementing a local version of the HOUSSE and is working out the mechanics of the review. The logistics of arranging for close classroom observation and evaluation of hundreds of teachers over a short time frame is one challenging part of the task.
"Retired teachers can help with observation and review of teacher's portfolios," Henneman said. "But the number applying is way too many for them to do by the end of May, which is our target."
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.