Thirty-nine teachers and five support staff walked out of Eudora Kean High School around 1 p.m. Friday to protest pay cuts, the St. Thomas Insular Superintendent’s Office reported — prompting rebukes from both Education Commissioner La Verne Terry and Gov. John deJongh Jr.
Teachers, along with other government employees, objected to recent eight percent cuts in pay imposed under the auspices of financial emergency, among other concerns.
Students from St. John were held until 1:50 p.m. so they could take the 2 p.m. boat, while students not taking the school bus were held until 2 p.m. Buses also made pickups at the regular dismissal time, said Insular Superintendent Jeanette Smith-Barry in a statement from the Department of Education.
Despite reports of school monitors walking out at the St. Croix Educational Complex, St. Croix Insular Superintendent Gary Molloy said there were no job actions in his district, applauding the dedication of the schools’ staff. Terry also praised teachers and other school staff that stayed on the job, and encouraged community members to speak out against further demonstrations.
Gov. John deJongh Jr. also weighed in, calling it an "irresponsible job action," in a statement.
"At a time when all government workers are being called upon to share the sacrifice and burden of the eight percent pay cut imposed upon us all by our economic and budgetary crisis, the actions of those school teachers who abandoned their duties today is particularly disappointing," deJongh said.
Local economic problems must be seen in the context of the nation’s economic crisis, deJongh said.
"Tens of thousands of teachers have lost their jobs across the country, but not one teacher has been dismissed in the Virgin Islands because of the budget deficit," he said.