Friday, August 21, 2009

Election Results!

Sometime this week, ACT ( Asociation of Commonwealth Teachers) election results will finally be announced. Watch for it!

Friday, August 14, 2009

A Fond Farewell!

Sadly early on August 10th, 2009 we lost our former Commissioner of Education, Dr. Rita Inos, to her fight with breast cancer.

Today, Saturday, August 15th, a large number of both PSS employees, current and past, and NMC employees were joined by members of the public as we all said our final good-byes to our former leader, Dr. Rita Inos here on Saipan. The service was a very long and very respectful one where many groups, organizations and individuals paid tribute to our fallen leader for all her endeavors.

Having been on Island for eight years now, I can say that I knew and respected Dr. Inos for her compassion, and in her drive and fight for education for all of Saipan's youth. Rita always greeted me with a smile, even when she knew we may have had a difference of opinion. She was always up beat and encouraged everyone to be the best that they could be.

This afternoon her body will be flown to Rota, where another Mass will be given, before her burial on Monday, August 17th, 2009.

Speaking as a member of the PSS family, I can say, we all bid you a fond farwell, because you will live on in our hearts and memories forever!

Friday, June 5, 2009

Today's Article in the Variety

Good Morning all you hard working teachers!

Just thought I'd let you know there's an editorial in today's Variety regarding ACT, HQT and Praxis. (I had contacted Zaldy after his previous article asking the CNMI not to "dumb down" the scores.)

The article is an accurate accounting of some of our e-mail communications, however there are key points that were raised that were not reflected in the article. I'd like to provide those to you, in the event you wish to continue this debate amongst yourselves, or within the community.

1) The NCLB Act does not require the CNMI to establish HQT standards, as a Tier 3 entity we are exempt from this requirement. The standards and deadlines were established by the CNMI. (Only those paid by Title V funds must be HQT, this affects approximately 35 teachers total.)

2) In 41 out of 47 Praxis II exams the CNMI has set the passing score to be higher than the national average. The establishment of these scores was based upon "states in which residents of the CNMI are likely to relocate." (Whereas the passing scores for Praxis I were determined with a validation study conducted by NMC in coordination with PSS.)

Here’s the editorial as it appeared in today’s paper:


BETTY Miller, the hard-working president of the local teachers union, ACT, was kind enough to provide me with their group’s position on the BOE-PSS highly qualified teacher rule, which has become a contentious issue mainly because 33 percent of PSS teachers have yet to pass Praxis 2, one of the components of the HQT requirement.
ACT says the passing score for Praxis 2 is too high and the “penalty” — a pay cut — is too stiff. The group believes that passing Praxis does not “provide a full picture of teacher effectiveness.” In its excellent Power Point presentation, which is backed by hard data and research, ACT argues that the HQT mandate itself of the federal No Child Left Behind Act is problematic.
ACT, however, doesn’t explain why other professionals are required to pass board exams which, I’m sure, do not also “provide a full picture of their effectiveness.” In fact, these professionals have to pass board exams before they can practice their profession. Some PSS teachers who can’t pass Praxis have been teaching for years. Surely a reasonable person may assume that such teachers should pass an exam on subjects they are already teaching. Moreover, the bus has already left the station as far as the NCLB is concerned. It’s already the law of the land and PSS has to comply with it.
ACT says those who have not passed Praxis include veteran and therefore experienced teachers. Yet they can’t pass an exam that tests their teaching knowledge. Instead of terminating them, however, PSS continues to help these teachers pass Praxis. They have two more years to do so.
But ACT insists that the passing score is too high and its members have convinced BOE’s curriculum, instruction, and assessment committee to reconsider the passing scores for Praxis 2.
According to Betty, “teachers had no role in the development of a plan that affected each and every one of us. Our beef comes from the discovery that the actual requirements under NCLB were not necessarily those that had been presented to teachers and the general public. [T]eachers were told we ‘must’ do this under the NCLB Act. We were also told certain things were ‘not allowed’ (such as alternative methods for qualifying veteran teachers) when in fact several states were doing exactly that and it was allowable under the NCLB Act. Our beef comes from the fact that principals were encouraged to terminate non-HQT teachers during the budget crisis because they were led to believe we would lose federal funding if we continued to maintain these teachers in our rank and file. All along this was never the case. Our beef comes from feeling misled and misinformed.”
So how did this happen when there was supposed to be a teacher representative on the education board?
ACT talks about the morale of teachers. But what about the morale of parents? And what do we say to the students themselves? As I’ve told Betty, what are we telling students if their teachers have to lower standards? What is the “message” we’re sending out to kids who ought to look up to their teachers? It’s okay to fail tests — because we can always lower the passing grades later?
Betty assures me, however, that ACT is not proposing a lowering of standards.
“We believe teachers should still be held to standards of excellence when it comes to working with students,” she says. “However, we do propose a through review and adjustment of Praxis scores that may have been set unfairly in the first place.”
So I guess the ball is now with BOE and PSS — and with the parents. Parents must be involved in this policy discussion. Someone, in any case, must point out that one of the best ways to measure a teacher’s effectiveness is to see how her students are performing academically.
Everyone must remember that PSS is supposed to be producing students who will eventually enroll at U.S. colleges, find work at U.S. companies and live in U.S. communities. This should be the starting point of these discussions.
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Saturday, May 23, 2009

Reflections on ACT Presidency

Ballots for the election of President and Treasurer of the Association of Commonwealth Teachers were delivered to principals on Thursday, and should now be in the offices of all public schools in the CNMI. Please vote and return your ballot to the envelope provided by Wednesday, May 27th. Teachers from Tinian and Rota are welcome to e-mail their votes to While there is only one candidate for each office on the ballot, we sincerely hope all student contact personnel will take time to vote. Voters can either express support for the candidate on the ballot or write in the name of another candidate, if they prefer. It is not necessary to be a member of ACT to vote in this election.

I would also like to take this opportunity to thank the PSS Leadership Team, Board of Education, and most especially the teachers of the CNMI for their continued support and encouragement during my term as President of ACT.

The past two years have been a whirlwind of activity for our Association. Some of our top priorities were to increase communication among teachers, encourage teachers to stay informed and get involved, and to rebuild the image of the ACT with the Board of Education and general public. To accomplish these goals, we needed to put our differences aside and work collaboratively.

Here are some of the activities we have embarked upon in an effort to reach our goals.
The establishment of a teacher's website with current events, links, photos, and a teacher's blog.
An extensive bylaw revision process with input from all interested members.
Providing advance notice to teachers regarding BOE meetings.
The attendance of at least one ACT Officer at all BOE meetings (when possible) with minutes sent from the meetings to all ACT members.
Meetings with PSS Leadership and/or the Board of Education regarding teacher concerns. The process was slow, but our efforts resulted in a closer examination of health and safety concerns in schools, Praxis Compensation for Step 11 employees, additional time allowed for ESL teachers on the Praxis Exams, and most recently the re-evaluation of Praxis II passing scores required.
Pre-Election Round table Discussions on Education with candidates for all offices and interested members of the community.
Workshops and meetings with Non-HQT teachers to better assist them in becoming HQT.
Continued Communication and dialogue with the GOV/BOE regarding the appointment of a Teacher Representative to the Board of Education.
In addition to the above, members of ACT have been quietly working behind the scenes in support of various community activities such as: PAWS Kids Night Out, CAMI Children's Party, Operation Homefront Support, Education Day Public Wavings, and Developmental Disability Month Activities.

It has been an honor and privilege to serve the teachers of the CNMI as ACT President. This is a terrific organization, and a wonderful way for teachers to stay informed and get involved. Although there is still much to do, I have no doubt my successor will be well equipped to continue down the positive path the members have chosen. I offer my congratulations to whomever the teachers select, and will be happy to provide support in any way requested.

Betty Miller
ACT President

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Saturday, April 4, 2009

Stimulas Money Transparency

Funding for education, as we all know is greatly needed. But, the great controversy is, the transparency on how it is spent and who decides how it is spent!

I applaud President Obama for trying to fund Education. But, I worry that his stimulas money will not be monitored as to where it is going, or that the great majority will not reach our kids. This is because, here in the CNMI, decisions are being made, but again, none of the stakeholders are involved in the decisions on how to spend it, except administration. Why, are parents, teachers, and students not being included in the process? Have we not learned from our past, that to include all would help make everything run more smoothly? OBVIOUSLY NOT!

All stakeholders should be involved with this large influx of cash into out system. Who knows best, what is needed in our classrooms, but our Teachers and our Students! They are the ones in the trenches where these funds would have the greatest impact.

Because the economy is what it is today, we need to look at were this money can have the greatest long term impact in Student Education. Teachers and students should be the primary contact for that information.

It would be nice if the BOE had an advisory board of Parents, Students, Teachers and concerned public citizens(maybe some who actually employ our youth). This group could assist the BOE with ideas that are out there from the various groups. This would insure true Stakeholder involvement in the process. It would also assist the BOE in becomming more transparent with its funds.

ACT Officer Anyone?

We of ACT are again endevoring to hold an election for the offices of President and Treasurer. Each office will be held for two years and will have some duties per the appropriate office. If any PSS teacher, retired teacher, teacher's assistant(aide), or anyone else out there that has signed up with us is interested in running for one of the two offices, please contact Betty Miller (San Vicente Elementary), Sam Joyner (Kagman Elementary), Ellen Rayphand (San Vicente Elementary), Angie Wheat (Kagman Elementary), or Hilda Joyner (Cha Cha Oceanview Junior High School). Any of the officers would also be glad to take your nominee(s) for an office.

There are a lot of important issues on the table, for now and the near future. As we all know, things around here can and do happen very quickly, when they happen! So we need committed people, who are willing to speak up for us all! Please contact one of the above ASAP, if interested!

Wednesday, October 8, 2008

Copy of Letter to the Editor (Tribune and Variety)

October 8, 2008

Let’s Set the Record Straight Mr. Bennett

In yesterday’s Letters to the Editor of the Saipan Tribune, Ambrose Bennett misquotes me and publicly misinterprets the intentions of The Association of Commonwealth Teachers.

I absolutely did not inform Mr. Bennett that I was working with the board and the governor to create an “exclusive bargaining representative of teachers within PSS.” There are no “back room” deals as Mr. Bennett alludes to. Teachers want a voice on the Board of Education, and are entitled to one under the CNMI Constitution. I simply stated ACT was working with the Governor’s Office and Board of Education to determine the process this administration would use in the appointment of a Teacher’s Representative.

Below you will find the full text of the e-mail sent to Mr. Bennett. (Dated Oct. 4, 2008 with cc copies to all members of the Association of Commonwealth Teachers and duly posted on our website under the link Communication from President to Membership.)

We trust interested members of the community will be able to read the correspondence and interpret for themselves whether or not Mr. Bennett’s accusations hold any merit.

Email correspondence from Betty Miller, ACT President to Ambrose Bennett Oct. 4, 2008

“I'm sorry Ambrose,

With all due respect, I strongly disagree with your statement "This is not about ACT and you are only trying to see how ACT can keep control which is not fair to all teachers. This has been the main inhibitor to teachers and my efforts to get all teachers to the bargaining table."

Your lack of attendance at BOE meetings and ACT meetings make it impossible for you to have a clue as to how our organization currently runs or what we do. The Association of Commonwealth Teachers invites all interested members of the community to attend our meetings and share their perspectives prior to voting. The election for our officers was open to all teachers in the CNMI, regardless of membership in the organization, and garnered 290 votes. Our email list includes many who have chosen not to join the Association, but would like to remain informed and involved. Our website and blog are opened to all members of the public. We have not charged a membership fee for two years, because we have no need to collect money in order to listen to and speak on behalf of teachers. The matters we take to the BOE are those that have been brought to the attention of ACT, we do not check for membership to determine whether or not we will speak on behalf of this teacher. We do not now, nor will we ever, be so arrogant as to profess we speak for all teachers. The decisions that we make and the actions that we take are a reflection of those who have taken time to express a concern or opinion.

While I have patiently and respectfully bit my tongue as you publicly degrade this Association, I will not allow you to sabotage our hard work toward reaching an amicable agreement with PSS/BOE/GOV as to what it will take for this administration to appoint a teacher's rep. to the Board of Education. The procedure you are proposing is from a former administration, which our current Governor has already stated he does not intend to follow. Why put all teachers through this process with no guarantee that it will yield a Teacher Representative to the Board of Education? Again, with all due respect, as much as we appreciate your input as to the "red letter of the law" you are not the one making the final decision. We will wait for a procedure from those in power to make the appointment.

We have stated time and again that we will happily participate in any required election for a Teacher Rep. to the Board of Education. In keeping with our bylaws we will endorse our president as a candidate. Yet, when an election was organized by independent teachers, no one came forward. If you felt so strongly you were the best candidate, why did you not step forward at that time? An election would have been held, the winner duly announced, and we wouldn't be facing the challenges we are now. We asked for the appointment of our President because no one else came forward and we wanted teachers to have a voice on the BOE. It was never our intention to circumvent any required procedure or process. It is a matter of public record we have been asking for guidance on the required process since June, 2007, well in advance of the expiration of your term. We did this because we wanted to ensure a seamless transition between the end of your term and beginning of the next. So let us be clear, The Association of Commonwealth Teachers bears no responsibility for the current lack of a teacher representative. As a matter of fact, a review of the records will show we have inquired of the BOE/GOV repeatedly as to the process needed for an appointment to be garnered.

Once a procedure has been agreed upon by those with the authority to make an appointment, I guarantee you we will wholeheartedly participate, and of course will appreciate any assistance you are willing to provide. In addition, should another attempt at an election be necessary we encourage you or any other interested teacher to run.


Betty Miller

ACT President