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Sunday, June 26, 2022
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STX Teachers Considering Legal Action Over Unsafe Schools

St. Thomas school officials say they have been hard at work making sure facilities are ready for students when school finally begins, however, the outlook on St. Croix isn’t so rosy.
Tyrone Molyneaux, then-American Federation of Teachers president for the St. Croix district, said the same unsafe conditions that have plagued St. Croix schools for years still remain. (Editor’s Note: After five terms as president of the St. Croix Federation, Molyneux stepped down at the end of August, with James Howell taking the reins Sept. 1.)
According to Molyneux, some classrooms are infested with bugs or rats, others are riddled with mold, and still others have serious problems with leaks.
He said the situation resulted in arbitration between the union and the V.I. Education Department, which took place last June.
The arbitrator sided with the union’s assertion that the department failed to properly repair and maintain school property, creating a harmful environment and violating the collective bargaining agreement between the two entities.
Molyneaux said the union is now considering taking legal action against the department.
“These are systemic problems that just don’t get fixed,” he said.
Calls to St. Croix Deputy Superintendent Janine Schuster were not returned.
Meanwhile, on St. Thomas much repair work has been done, but problems still remain. Deputy Superintendent for the St. Thomas/St. John District Joe Sibilly acknowledges that maintaining school property is a year-round job.
Sibilly said the Department of Education spent the summer contracting out jobs for things like bathroom repairs, camera installation and grounds maintainance. He said school administrators submit a list of concerns to the department letting them know what needs to be fixed.
Vernelle deLaguarde, American Federation of Teachers (AFT) president for the St. Thomas/St. John district, said there are still some problems with school facilities, but the Department of Education seems to be listening to teachers’ concerns. She said some areas that had been prepped for painting still haven’t been painted, and some classrooms are still way too hot to have class in.
However, she said Sibilly has been in touch with the union’s building representatives – liaisons between the union and school officials – and has made it known that he means to have problems fixed as soon as possible.
When she went before senators earlier this month to discuss the board’s 2011 budget, Education Commissioner LaVerne Terry submitted a list of 109 projects totaling about $5.5 million that were to be tackled over the summer break.
The work was done at the following schools: Claude O. Markoe, Ricardo Richards, Arthur Richards Jr. High, Pearl B. Larsen, Evelyn Williams, Alfredo Andrews, Eulalie Rivera, Lew Muckle, Charles H. Emanuel, Alexander Henderson, Elena Christian Jr. High, St. Croix Educational Complex, Juanita Gardine, St. Croix Central High, Positive Connection and John H. Woodson Jr. High.
Sibilly explained that money for the repairs came from government allocations, bonds, the “Initiative Fund” made up of profits from the V.I. Lottery and federal stimulus funds.
The Department also spent $151,000 in Public Finance Authority funds on new kitchen equipment at several schools and allocated $1.6 million in State Fiscal Stabilization Funds to create state-of-the-art science labs in middle and high schools.
Additionally, the department’s School Safety Project will use $800,000 to support the purchase of an infrared camera security system.
Sibilly said school officials have their work cut out for them but bristled at the notion that territory schools are in extremely bad condition, calling those claims “ridiculous.” “It should be better – yes,” he said, but he said they have been working to get things fixed as funding allows.
For now, Sibilly said that workers are cutting the grass and putting the finishing touches on some summer projects. He said the department has the funds to keep up renovations throughout the school year, and that while most of the projects that were scheduled for this summer are complete, a few linger – but nothing that will interfere with students’ learning.
“I don’t see anything major,” he said.

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St. Thomas school officials say they have been hard at work making sure facilities are ready for students when school finally begins, however, the outlook on St. Croix isn't so rosy.
Tyrone Molyneaux, then-American Federation of Teachers president for the St. Croix district, said the same unsafe conditions that have plagued St. Croix schools for years still remain. (Editor's Note: After five terms as president of the St. Croix Federation, Molyneux stepped down at the end of August, with James Howell taking the reins Sept. 1.)
According to Molyneux, some classrooms are infested with bugs or rats, others are riddled with mold, and still others have serious problems with leaks.
He said the situation resulted in arbitration between the union and the V.I. Education Department, which took place last June.
The arbitrator sided with the union’s assertion that the department failed to properly repair and maintain school property, creating a harmful environment and violating the collective bargaining agreement between the two entities.
Molyneaux said the union is now considering taking legal action against the department.
“These are systemic problems that just don’t get fixed,” he said.
Calls to St. Croix Deputy Superintendent Janine Schuster were not returned.
Meanwhile, on St. Thomas much repair work has been done, but problems still remain. Deputy Superintendent for the St. Thomas/St. John District Joe Sibilly acknowledges that maintaining school property is a year-round job.
Sibilly said the Department of Education spent the summer contracting out jobs for things like bathroom repairs, camera installation and grounds maintainance. He said school administrators submit a list of concerns to the department letting them know what needs to be fixed.
Vernelle deLaguarde, American Federation of Teachers (AFT) president for the St. Thomas/St. John district, said there are still some problems with school facilities, but the Department of Education seems to be listening to teachers’ concerns. She said some areas that had been prepped for painting still haven’t been painted, and some classrooms are still way too hot to have class in.
However, she said Sibilly has been in touch with the union’s building representatives – liaisons between the union and school officials – and has made it known that he means to have problems fixed as soon as possible.
When she went before senators earlier this month to discuss the board’s 2011 budget, Education Commissioner LaVerne Terry submitted a list of 109 projects totaling about $5.5 million that were to be tackled over the summer break.
The work was done at the following schools: Claude O. Markoe, Ricardo Richards, Arthur Richards Jr. High, Pearl B. Larsen, Evelyn Williams, Alfredo Andrews, Eulalie Rivera, Lew Muckle, Charles H. Emanuel, Alexander Henderson, Elena Christian Jr. High, St. Croix Educational Complex, Juanita Gardine, St. Croix Central High, Positive Connection and John H. Woodson Jr. High.
Sibilly explained that money for the repairs came from government allocations, bonds, the “Initiative Fund” made up of profits from the V.I. Lottery and federal stimulus funds.
The Department also spent $151,000 in Public Finance Authority funds on new kitchen equipment at several schools and allocated $1.6 million in State Fiscal Stabilization Funds to create state-of-the-art science labs in middle and high schools.
Additionally, the department’s School Safety Project will use $800,000 to support the purchase of an infrared camera security system.
Sibilly said school officials have their work cut out for them but bristled at the notion that territory schools are in extremely bad condition, calling those claims “ridiculous.” “It should be better – yes,” he said, but he said they have been working to get things fixed as funding allows.
For now, Sibilly said that workers are cutting the grass and putting the finishing touches on some summer projects. He said the department has the funds to keep up renovations throughout the school year, and that while most of the projects that were scheduled for this summer are complete, a few linger – but nothing that will interfere with students’ learning.
“I don’t see anything major,” he said.