Sunday, December 23, 2007
Ms. Miller is not doing all teachers a service by creating a controversy "over her personal decision". Furthermore, I can assure you the Board of Education WILL NOT support an administrator representing teachers. I will also be fighting against this until it is done in accordance with the Constitution. School is out and there is no time left before the next Board is sworn in and I intend on being there until a TEACHER takes my place.
I am calling on all teachers to ask ACT and the Governor to reappoint me in an ACTING capacity until a TEACHER steps forward to take the position. Ms. Miller along with the history of ACT has literally frightened all teachers away from wanting the job because of the attacks ACT made towards me and anyone that doesn't want to do exactly what ACT demands. ACT must reallize the organization does not represent all teachers and ONLY the BOE Teacher Rep has that right to speak for all teachers until ACT has garnnered the majority of teachers as members.
Wednesday, December 19, 2007
James Yangetmai makes some good points in his email, and if this were a union and we were really doing collective bargaining, his argument would be even stronger. However, this isn't the U.S. mainland, ACT isn't a union, and regarding this statement: "The credibility of our organization and teaching profession are at stake, and I believe that’s what all of us would want to protect," we have no credibility because so many people have sat around and done nothing for years that all ACT is now is Betty Miller trying to herd a group of disinterested cats. No one even wants to run for crying out loud. How sad a statement is that? The last election there was no campaign, no one voted, and we've since had four years of many people being angry that Ambrose won, so they just sit it out. It's only nonsense like this that brings people out of the woodwork.
Remember how last year the salaries were cut over Praxis and people were now upset and they had nowhere to turn? That was because there was no ACT in reality, and even a few months after it was reformed with all that paycut mojo, it has officers that don't show up to help, a membership that doesn't show up at meetings and virtually no one, in ACT or not, that could be bothered to show up at a Board of Education debate and other educational debates that Betty spearheaded.
Betty Miller has gone to those board meetings, actually represented teachers in a fair and professional manner and tried to make something of ACT while 99 percent of you sat on your ass, and now because she got promoted a few people don't want her to be teacher rep and turned this into some Supreme Court procedure argument. It's sad.
And for Ambrose's edification, it was other parties, certainly not me and not Betty, who wanted him removed from office last Spring, so don't take it out on her now, which is obviously happening. And even if you cling to the argument that Betty can't be in that position, the lone alternative isn't retaining Ambrose. There are other choices.The issue is do you trust Betty to relate the views of teachers and watch and relate those interests on the board and back to teachers, and we all know she can. Can we please stop the dramatic Constitutional Convention and show some real world awareness of what we are (a fledgling organization at best) and are not (a union).
I’ve given the BOE teachers’ rep and the ACT a long and serious thought and I’ve come to the conclusion that it’s NOT about Ms. Betty Miller that is at stake, but the ACT and our teaching profession. My mind and heart tells me to vote for Ms. Miller to stay on as the ACT president and serve as our teachers’ representative to the CNMI BOE, but deep down I can see and feel the conflict that her role as the acting VP of San Vicente Elementary School poses for our organization and teaching profession. The credibility of our organization and teaching profession are at stake, and I believe that’s what all of us would want to protect.
Like most of you I’ve known Ms. Miller for a long time, and I know how good of a person she is. I also know how hard she’s been working to ensure that our concerns are being addressed, but I strongly feel that Ms. Miller has to understand that she has been given a new responsibility which dictates that she MUST surrender her leadership and should not seek out the role of the CNMI teachers’ rep. The newly adopted ACT bylaws may clearly state that the ACT president should be the one appointed as the teachers’ rep, but I am certain that IT DOES NOT state that the ACT president can be a school administrator who should also serve as the teachers’ rep to BOE.
Be mindful that the foremost purpose of ACT and BOE teachers’ representative is to allow teachers (not administrators) the opportunity to address and voice their concerns to school administrators. There is absolutely no question that the intent of ACT is to have an exclusive group for teachers and teachers only. At least that was the intention when the group was formed in 1986 (not 1991 as that was the year the organization was chartered. I know that because I am one of the few original members that are still around and want to be associated with ACT.) I believe the BOE teachers’ representative was also set up exclusively for that purpose.
As far as I know, with the exception of Mrs. Jovita Masiwemai, all of our previous ACT officers and BOE representatives have graciously yielded their teachers’ leadership once they were promoted to administrator positions. I believe our very own PSS Commissioner had to do just that when he was assigned to be the active principal of Hopwood. (He was the teachers’ representative to the PSS BOE at the time.) I know that Mr. Joe Borja (our very first president of ACT), Jerry Jordan, and Pastor Gagarin to name a few gladly gave up their ACT leadership roles to ensure the integrity of our organization. The issue here is the integrity of ACT and the teachers’ rep to BOE.
There is currently a school administrators’ organization on island that meets frequently to address issues of the various schools in the commonwealth. I am sure that that organization would never allow a teacher to be a leader of the group.
As I mentioned above I gave this issue a serious thought and I came to the conclusion that if it was someone else other than Ambrose Bennett who raise this concern I am sure many of you would oppose to having a school administrator serving as our ACT president and BOE representative. I am against the idea because I don’t believe it is right to have a school administrator as our teachers’ representative on either organization.
I believe many of you are speaking up in support of who should be representing us because of the person who is in-line (according to the ACT bylaws) to replace the current teachers rep, but you have to understand that it’s the organization and our teaching profession that are at stake here. Please understand that I am NOT against Ms. Miller. I would throw all my support behind here if she was a full time PSS teacher. All I want to do is to protect the integrity of ACT and the teachers’ rep position. I am sure that if the intend of ACT and the BOE representation was for the school administrators, the titles would be known as Association of Commonwealth School Administrators (ACSA) and School Administrators representative to the BOE.
Have A Happy Holidays!
OK - let's be real. I DO have a law degree, and the plain and unambiguous language of the constitution is crystal clear.
Article XV, Section 1(d)reads as follows: A member of the board of education shall be qualified to vote in theCommonwealth, at least twenty-five years of age, and a resident anddomiciliary of the Commonwealth for at least five years immediately preceding the date on which the member takes office. A longer residency and domicile requirement may be provided by law. This provision does not outlaw teachers who serve as administrators.
Section 1(c) IN ITS ENTIRETY further provides: The board of education shall have five members, elected at large on anon-partisan basis as follows: one from the first senatorialdistrict, one from the second senatorial district and three from thethird senatorial district. Elected members of the board of education shall serve terms of four years except that the terms of the firstmembers elected shall be determined by drawing of lots with threemembers serving a term of four years and two members serving a termof two years. The governor shall appoint three nonvoting ex-officio members to the board of education: one member shall be a student attending a public school; one member shall be a representative of nonpublic schools; and one member selected by an exclusive bargaining representative of the teachers within the Department of Education. Elected members of the board shall serve commencing on the second Monday of January in the year following the regular general electionat which they were elected.
This section likewise says nothing about administrators who also teach. So now hear this: Even those who cast themselves as scholars can not mistake the plain language of the framers, save by deliberately blinding themselves by their own blind ambition.
This is not about Betty Miller. It IS about ACT members' choices. We get the representation we deserve. Those who don't or won't vote have no license to criticize. Mr. Bennett: ACT chose Betty Miller. The membership made its choice. You don't need to be a constitutional scholar to grasp the meaning of that fact.
Fellow teachers: AB: WHY are you doing ALL Teachers like this Ms. Miller. JV: Sorry Betty, but I feel neglected and discriminated. Didn't realize you were doing ALL teachers and I must have missed my chance, or I got bypassed!
AB: Furthermore, I have been recognized by the U.S. Congress as a Constitutional Scholar and only people with "Law" degrees are considered to have a better understanding of our Constitution - meaning the "lay" interpretations that ACT is creating to address the Constitution don't carry any weigth nor will the be considered as a "qualified" opinion. JV: Let's give our Constitutional Law expert what is due him. No Jeff, not the tomatoes! No, No, No. Not the soursops!!!The CNMI Constitution says: ... The governor shall appoint three nonvoting ex-officio members to the board of education: one member shall be a student attending a public school; one member shall be a representative of the nonpublic schools; and one member selected by an exclusive bargaining representative of the teachers within the department of education. I realize English is my second language so one must be forgiven if we miss the direct and nuanced meanings of the language, but by my reading, it is specific about the one's choosing - teachers - but does not say who the chosen one has to be nor it demands that it even has to be one of them! We'll skip the tirade and diatribe on Betty. But one who recommended himself to be retained seems to be serving his self-interest more than the one who was duly chosen by her peers. My humble opinion.
So please, AB, give us teachers a break, and just choose to be other than a bright donkey, for once. It is just that simple. Jaime VergaraSVES
I encourage you to print or forward this e-mail for all teachers in the community. Various members have requested we hold one final meeting and possible membership vote regarding our requested candidate for Teacher Representative to the BOE. The meeting is scheduled for this Thursday, December 20th at 6:00 P.M. in the San Vicente cafeteria. Fliers will be sent to all schools (please let me know if they are not posted tomorrow) and press releases should run by Wednesday. I do apologize for the short notice and bad timing, but waiting until after the break puts it too close to the Governor's appointment.
I understand some feel we have voted on this measure twice and may be frustrated by the request to do so again. But, questions have been raised by a few members regarding my acting administrative position. Although there is no constitutional restriction to our current nomination, I feel it is in the best interest of the organization that we show a good faith effort in weighing all sides carefully prior to making such an important decision. If you have strong opinions on the topic either way, this would definitely be the time to show up for a meeting and express yourself.
With that said, if you are unable to attend the meeting and would like to express your opinion and/or vote via e-mail, you will have the opportunity to do so at the end of this message. Please be aware your e-mail will be printed and hand carried to the meeting in order to be included. (I apologize to the teachers of Tinian and Rota for not being able to schedule a meeting in a manner in which you are able to attend.)
Should the turn-out or response to this meeting be low, we will stand by our initial vote counts. August, 76 to 3 in favor of asking me to stay on as president and BOE candidate, with the knowledge that I was acting in the capacity of an administrator.
Nov. 2nd. unanimous for all members present that we nominate our duly elected president as our candidate to the BOE for teacher representative.
I will not be offended if the membership votes for my resignation, as I have already offered it twice. As I've stated before, in theory I also believe it would be "best" if a teacher were your representative to the BOE.
On the other hand, if the majority of members voting have faith that I can continue to represent you fairly to the BOE (and trust that I will recuse myself if a conflict arises), then I will happily do that too.
A president's responsibility is to serve what is in the best interests of the organization. The last thing I want is for public perception of teachers to be damaged as we debate this issue amongst ourselves.
Let us meet Thursday, talk it out, vote, then stand behind our decision as an organization, in private and in public.
I am unable to attend the General Membership meeting on Thursday, Dec. 20th.
I am choosing to cast my vote via e-mail:
_____ I vote we retain Betty Miller as our President and support her nomination to the BOE as our teacher representative (with the understanding that should a conflict of interest arise, due to her acting administrative position, another officer of the organization be authorized to speak on behalf of teachers regarding the matter.)
_____ I request Betty Miller resign as President of ACT, and someone else serve as our recommended candidate to the BOE for teacher representative.
Please pass this along to all teachers.
WHY are you doing ALL Teachers like this Ms. Miller. The majority of teachers are not members of ACT and it is clear you have a "personal" agenda and not one for all teachers. You can solve all of this my stepping down as the VP but you are pushing teachers to support you in a position that will clearly create a conflict of interest.
Furthermore, I have been recognized by the U.S. Congress as a Constitutional Scholar and only people with "Law" degrees are considered to have a better understanding of our Constitution - meaning the "lay" interpretations that ACT is creating to address the Constitution don't carry any weigth nor will the be considered as a "qualified" opinion.
Your personal quest like previous ACT figureheads has been TEACHERS worst enemy and now you come with a NEW controversy that can easily be resolved by you making a real committment to Teachers or Administration - YOU MAKE THE CHOICE and stop all this "log rolling" to promote your desires that is going to accomplish NOTHING. How many votes are you going to take, how many signature will it take, who other than you Ms. Miller is requesting this vote and what purpose will it accomplish? The law is the law and voting for you three times will not change the law. The Board has not and will not support an administrator as the BOE Teacher Rep.
Please give us teachers a break and just choose, it is just that simple.
Below you will find the opinions expressed regarding the upcoming appointment of a Teacher Representative to the Board of Education. They are in no particular order, I just thought it might be helpful for members to see all the opinions compiled all in one place.
I have also included my personal thoughts, as a few members have expressed an interest in hearing my perspective. (As opposed to expressing what the membership has decided.)
Hilda Joyner…….I believe it's a "Conflict of Interest"
Name withheld at request of the member…….As a member of ACT who only believes in speaking when the urgency arises, I want to make it known that I, for one, support you to be our teacher rep. This is a no brainer in so far as Mr. Bennett has done nothing to represent anyone but himself, and now is no different. You have my vote and good luck. Keep doing a great job and keep the e-mails flowing. They really are appreciated.
Guadalupe Borja-Robinson….PLEASE stick with the program. You are doing a GREAT job and have the complete confidence of all the teachers I have spoken to.
In the words of a great naval commander "Damn the torpedoes, Full speed ahead".
Jim Rayphand….You certainly must be having fun...I think responses by Ron Mandell and Jaime Vergara together make a solid case for your dual role. I remember telling you that I thought you should not remain in contention for teacher rep. and admin, but I take it back. Maybe this sort of forged alliance between management and teachers is just what PSS needs at this time...I know I tried my best to eliminate any top-down notion of management while I was there...I hope that was evident. I am primarily concerned about the sheer volume of work you will need to juggle, but if you can handle with equal vigor on both ends then more power to you...I know I wouldn't have wanted to do both (slacker to the end); however, if anyone can do it, I suspect you are the one.
Also, I would stay amenable to members of Act revisiting the issue because I have heard mixed opinions about the issue from teachers throughout the community.
Name withheld.....You are doing an excellent job. Do not let anyone tell you otherwise. Forget about Ambrose and his agenda. Let him talk all he wants (in this case writes). He had his chance to make life better for teachers and well....
If you believe in what you are doing, then go for it.
Bryan Jones….To all ACT members ...
I still support Betty Miller as our president and "Do Not" want to
give the Governor any power to decide ACT's future.
Sam Joyner…….Please don't be offended...it's the frustrations talking) What difference does it make whose right or wrong? Let the record show that I am one of those teachers that your organization do not represent.... I do respect your views and you have done an excellent job....But its the type of stuff that discourages me and many others from involvement in ACT....You got 76 votes out of 500+ teachers.... that's the evidence.... The work that you are doing is exceptional... so why are teachers not responding? It's because ACT has been in fighting from the very start and everybody agree to disagree.... You are doing a great job with the technical stuff but the real issue is teacher unity or lack of.... You guys must figure out a way to agree, stop all this fighting and get pass contesting every step of progress.... Ok 76 teachers want you to stay and be the President of a teachers association and be the teachers representative... Let me ask you how do you feel about that? What do you want? What was your vote? dogs just don't represent cats... And cats are not presidents of dog organizations... It's just against the nature of things...against the grain.... At any rate you guys go ahead and fight and continue to drag down motivation and moral... But bottom line... this is not unity....Lastly... you can't remove a dark cloud with a dark cloud... You are doing a great job for the BOE because the very last thing that they wish to see is teacher unity....That would mean a voice which has no place in this school system...Its time for me to crawl back into my shell and close my mouth.... I have already said out of frustration more that I had intended.... You guys go head and fight tho... I will be over here watching with my popcorn and coke....
Valrick Welch…It has been my experience that principals are often the front line
Defense for the teachers. In Hawaii the board and commissioner are
more intimidated by certain principals than they are of the union. Our
former principal, Jim Rayphand, fought the commissioner and board over
the forced termination of employees. He basically told them if they
needed to fire someone they could fire him. I don't have a problem
with a principal being a teacher representative; especially one who
has spent more of their time as a teacher.
Ron Mandell…These are my thoughts on the subject. I was present at the ACT planning
meeting when it was first announced that you would possibily be offered the
position of Vice Principal at San Vicente Elementary. My first reaction at
that time was that this could be a real boon to the teachers you represent
in both your capacity as ACT President, and in your future capacity as
Teacher Rep to the Board of Ed. I continue to feel that way. Yes, at that
time the issue of a possible conflict of interest arose. . . (I believe you
brought it up yourself) . . ., however knowing your sense of integrity as
well as I do, I dismissed it out of hand.
In respect to your capacity as President of ACT, my feelings that your
appointment as an administrator would be an asset to the organization,
center around my observations over the last decade or so that a large number
of PSS teachers have been reluctant to become involved with ACT due to
intimidation - they feared that involvement with ACT might not be viewed as
"acceptable" or as "politically correct" by the powers that be - the Board
of Ed, the Commissioner of Ed, and/or their school principal. They feared
that to be identified with an "unpopular" cause (as defined by these
powers), might bring them into disfavor, which would have negative
repercussions on their careers, or even their very employment. In this
regard, my immediate thought was that your appointment as a school Vice
Principal would serve as a very clear indicator to PSS employees, and the
community at large that ACT (and its goals) was not only NOT out of favor
with the powers that be, but that the organization was now welcomed by them.
In regard to your position as Teacher Board of Ed Rep. . . I knew that
being an administrator would put you in the position of meeting with the
Commissioner of Ed on a regular basis, and in receipt of other daily input,
which would make you much better informed, and up-to-date than normal
teachers concerning new policies, procedures, directives, and shifts in
stance coming out of the office of the Commissioner and the Board of Ed. I
knew that this background knowledge would sharpen your input, and serve
teachers in good stead, in your dealing with the Board, while representing
them as a Board of Ed member.
I also felt that your position as an administrator would have another
positive impact upon your effectiveness as Teacher Rep to the Board - that
being, that it would serve to enhance your credibility with Board members.
In short, having just now read Commissioner Borja's comments on the
subject, I find that I am in total agreement with him regarding the positive
aspects of having a Board of Ed Teacher Rep, who is also an administrator.
Regarding faith in your ability to represent teachers on the Board. . .
Earlier this year, I happened to be in attendence at several BOE meeting
at which you were also present as ACT President, and you sold me. What I
mean to say is that these were not the first BOE meetings I had attended,
and thus, I speak with some background when I say that I was impressed by
the positive reception the Board gave both you and all of the input you
offered on the behalf of teachers. I was also impressed by the rapport I
observed between themselves and yourself, and the smooth way in which you
interacted with them. With an eye to achieving their eventual aims, I can't
think of anything teachers need more right now than this type of positive
interaction with the BOE.
Betty Miller….My Opinion (Not speaking for the membership, speaking from my heart) In theory, I believe a Teacher should speak on our behalf on the BOE. However, we live in reality. To me, it all comes down to "How do we want it to be?" Time and again we teachers have complained about having no voice to the BOE. Although we had a Teachers Representative, frustration rose over a lack of communication amongst teachers and this representative. Improved communications among teachers and ACT, have greatly assisted in building a more interactive and positive relationship with the BOE. This is exactly what we wanted. I would like to see this continue, regardless of who the governor appoints as a new Teacher Representative. No other candidates have come forward for this position. I believe I have effectively demonstrated my ability to balance my responsibilities as an administrator and President of the Association of Commonwealth Teachers. If at any time a perceived conflict of interest should arise, I will excuse myself from the discussion, and allow another member of the organization to speak on behalf of teachers during the public comment phase of the meeting.
In summary, I would like the opportunity to continue to speak on behalf of teachers to the BOE until such time as the membership desires to have someone else fulfill this role. I also assure you should the membership chose to meet or vote on this matter, I will graciously accept the desires of the membership without public conflict or controversy, as these types of interactions are detrimental to the progress of the organization and public perception of teachers as a whole.
The "Us vs. Them" position that Mr. Bennett espouses is not only outdated --it is not in accord with CNMI law, modern thinking, or the allianceswe in the CNMI strive to build through consensus.
As an initial matter, No CNMI constitutional or statutory provision
prohibits an administrator from serving as BOE teacher rep, and hadMr. Bennett bothered to check the law before proclaiming it "BlackLetter," he should have recognized the error. The CNMI Constitution simply requires that one of the three nonvoting ex-officio members to theboard of education be a "member selected by an exclusive bargainingrepresentative of the teachers within the Department of Education." Given this reality, where is the "black letter" conflict?
Second, Jaimie Vergara has already eloquently outlined the strong
policy considerations warranting a rethinking of the "Us vs. Them" mentalitythat drove workers to organize nearly a century ago. Thus, I need not repeat them here.
Consistent with these realities, the ACT membership confirmed their preference for Betty Miller through a vote of confidence for at ACT recent meetings, in ACT web postings, andagain and again, in membership email correspondence.
Support for Ms Miller and recognition of her efforts continued long after she accepted the position of administrator. Not one person has called ameeting or asked the membership to hold a vote requesting Betty Miller to step down. With the exception of the 4 teachers using the press to communicate -- neither of whom bothered to attend a membership meeting to oppose Ms. Miller's service as teacher rep,
Ms.Miller continues to garner and hold the appreciation and confidence of all of us. I do not mean through this email to challenge any teacher personally, or to question anyone's motives.
It seems, however, prudent to raisethe following suggestion: perhaps the ill-feeling toward Ms. Millerstems from something other than the fact that she is not only ateacher who took on the challenge of serving as an administrator, but also that she has asked Mr. Bennett to resign, given the absence of all support from ACT members? Perhaps the ill-feeling also stems
from Mr. Bennett's refusal to step down, despite the absence ofteacher support?
Mr. Bennett's tenure as teacher rep is over. No one has asked him to continue, and his request that the governor extend his tenure for even a minute past the deadline for his departure is insulting to all of us who voted to replace him.
Mr. Bennett didn't run for a second term as teacher rep; no one voted for him to stay on, and it would serve no interest for him to continue to serve in this position for a minute longer than he has the right to do so.
If Mr. Bennett must do something, then why not kindly dedicate his efforts to furthering theACT membership's choice? Mr. Bennett is free to raise his concerns over Betty Miller's alleged conflict at a membership meeting. Will he bother do so? Or will he continue to use the press and electronic mail to avoid putting theissue to the membership? The membership has not only made itschoice; it has repeatedly confirmed it. Nevertheless, what is theharm in holding a membership meeting after the First of the Year to put the matter to rest? Let all attend who need to speak out. We are waiting.
The ACT decided to nominate the President of the Association to be the BOE Rep. There is no question of conflict on that one. That the President happens to be Betty Miller, at the moment, is where you are not comfortable. The issue was brought to the ACT general membership who decided, 76 to 3 that Miller may remain President of the Association.
The ACT decision is to ask the Governor to appoint the President of the Association to be the BOE Rep. Procedurally, to question Miller's status as a teacher, or her possible conflict of interest as an administrator vis-a-vis teachers, is a matter that should be presented to the ACT general membership. Any member or non-member of ACT can bring that up. But to request the Governor to disregard the decision of the teachers' association is again, to relinquish the right to make our own decision.
Besides, the strict dichotomy between teacher and administrator that AB is adhering to is the irresolute and dogmatic old Union view which no longer applies. In a time when management and labor in the private sector is finding ways to cooperate and collaborate, the alliances forged in the civil society towards common causes, and PSS' unquestioned though not-to-well implemented attempt at collaborative leadership teams, makes this assumption of conflict-of-interest perspective, at best, archaic.
But back to the main point: any question about Miller representing ACT as its President to the BOE should be a matter for the ACT internally to decide. It has thought that decision can be appealed. Let those who wish to appeal it follow procedure. But let us not surrender again our right to make that decision. Act's right to decide that it's President is its recommendee to the Governor for the BOE Teachers' Rep, is a valid and our current position. For me, that is non-negotiable.
Hola My Fellow Teachers,
I have only one concern reading Ms. Miller being the BOE Teacher>Rep.
she is acting in an administrative capacity which places her in a>postion of
"conflict of interest" - this is Black Letter Law and end of story.
The BOE Teacher Rep can be a Librarian, Counselor or Teacher but not an administrator. She must decide whom she wants to serve as I did when I turned down a VP job twice just to help teachers.
Secondly, ACT's By-Laws "CANNOT" dictate Constitutional Law and infact the by-laws MUST COMPLY with the Law. Ms. Miller only needs to make a decision and stop putting all the burden of a "personal decision" on all teachers. I have nothing against her and I have no desire to stay on the Board but in the BEST interest of ALL teachers and a majoirty of teachers ARE NOT members of ACT I have asked the governor to allow me to remain until a "TEACHER" can be properly recomended to his office that meets the criteria "established" by the previous administration.
Thank you teachers for you time and consideration of these facts,
Ambrose M. Bennett, BOE Teacher Rep
Wednesday, December 12, 2007
Many of you are aware of a recent editorial regarding the upcoming appointment of a Teacher Representative to the Board of Education. (You can view our response under correspondence from the president at our website www.cnmiactnow.com.) It has come to my attention that Ambrose Bennett has asked the governor to block our request for my appointment to the BOE, and to allow him to stay on until the governor can find another candidate. I understand the concerns regarding my current position as Acting Vice-Principal, but the membership has voted and decided this matter already. Barring a constitutional restriction, it continues to be the position of the Association of Commonwealth Teachers that our president be our candidate for Teacher Representative to the BOE.
ACT has worked hard to limit the amount of negative publicity received this year, and we have been largely successful. However, this may be the time we must stand speak out. Otherwise, those who are more vocal may take it upon themselves to make the decision for you, which we have already made. We have voted more than once on this matter, so I know I'm following the path you have asked me to take. (I trust if I veer off course you will let me know!)
I do not agree with Mr. Davis's statement in the paper as taken from "Letter to the Editor: Two Issues" (Marianas Variety December 11, 2007)"...Other than Ambrose Bennett, am I the only person that has a problem with the idea that a school principal should be the teacher representative on the Board of Education? Does no one else believe that there is an inherent ethical dilemma and a serious conflict of interest? I’m sure Ms. Miller has the best intentions, but isn’t that what the road to hell is paved with? As a matter of integrity, Ms. Miller should withdraw from the election. If no one else is nominated and elected, then the teachers will have made obvious what they think of the office and the process."
JOHN H. DAVISFina Sisu, Saipan
In theory, I agree with Mr. Davis that the best candidate for Teacher Representative would be a classroom teacher. However, I do not view the fact that no candidates came forward as representative that “teachers have will have made obvious what they think of the office and the process.”
Another point of view may be that teachers have faith in my ability to continue to represent them will professionalism and integrity with the Board of Education and general public. It may be that they have looked at my actions and responses while serving as ACT President and “Acting Administrator” through setting up a teachers website, sending weekly updates to the membership, taking annual leave to speak on their behalf at every BOE meeting, organizing Pre-Election Round Table Discussions to raise awareness of the needs of PSS for our incoming legislature, organizing surveys regarding safety concerns in our schools, limiting the amount of negative publicity surrounding the organization, and felt satisfied with how I was representing them.
Please understand, I am not outlining all of the above because I feel that I deserve any sort of recognition or acknowledgement. These activities are my responsibility as President of the Association of Commonwealth Teachers. I outline these activities above as proof that I am (and have been since August) very capable of representing the needs of teachers while serving as an “acting Vice-Principal” in the public school system.
In the meantime, we look forward to continuing the positive relationship we have established with the Board of Education. I will continue to speak on your behalf regardless of the governor's decision as to who to appoint to the BOE. I welcome your comments and concerns, as I do with all teachers of the CNMI, and will continue to act upon those the membership feels are within their best interests.
I encourage you to speak out either through this blog, via e-mail, or the newspaper, should you feel so inclined. All I ask is you maintain a general level of respect for other points of view when writing. The last thing the public wants to read is teachers arguing amongst themselves...AGAIN!
Those wishing further information as to the history of this situation are more than welcome to contact us at firstname.lastname@example.org or check out our website at www.cnmiactnow.com.
Thursday, December 6, 2007
At the beginning of the school year, results are released detailing the performance of schools, principals, teachers and students via the SAT 10 scores. The infamous No Child Left Behind Act, and school rivalries, puts everyone under a lot of pressure to achieve higher scores. Apparently deficiencies in scores on this test are a result of "bad proctoring" by the teachers if comments from the associate commissioner and a tirade from my own vice principal at a recent, testy staff meeting are to be believed.
I've proctored these tests for four years, and there are many problems with education in these islands and these tests in particular. Proctoring is the least of the problems. First, the test is exceedingly long. It's a three day plus affair. It doesn't affect the students' grade or their ability to graduate. They know that.
Regular student attendance is always an issue in the best of times. I found it astonishing to see this quote in the paper from the associate commissioner. “Across all schools, we have a good attendance rate. Among the high schools, two recorded a 98 and 95 percent rate." There is that old saying about lies, damned lies and statistics. Here is the reality I've seen for five years now: Students disappear for weeks at a time in the high school for vague and I'm sure usually not very good reasons. To achieve that rate, these habitually absent students must be removed from the rosters to achieve that inflated attendance number. The students tend to come back later as if nothing happened with little or no explanation. One of the better reasons for absence, a death in the family, can mean twenty days of student absences. That's not something that can be easily overcome, and with large island families, there can be quite a few deaths in the family. The never ending war on betel nut on campuses leads to suspensions, as do other violations of school rules.
The SAT 10 tests are on grade level and the material more rigorous than students are used to, so they can be overwhelmed. Very few students take the even more difficult, and even more important SAT college admissions test, either. PSS classes, especially in the high school for the non-honors students, are not taught on grade level because so few students are actually on grade level. In four years I saw a staggering number of seniors, the near finished product, write essays lacking capital letters, punctuation, subject/verb agreement or using multiple paragraphs. That isn't something that can be glossed over, so I had to incorporate this largely grade two or three materials into grade twelve, which is not the type of thing that helps to prepare for SAT 10, but it does help in being educated on a basic level.
The SAT 10 test is also late in the school year when motivation decreases anyway. Beyond that, the SAT 10 test and the Standards Based Testing come within weeks of each other, and it leads to test fatigue. I’ve made this point to PSS leadership before. Some students simply just fill in answers at random or draw a picture of Bob Marley. I personally give stern admonitions on this issue. I've seen the scores for students who I knew were near grade level, yet their tests indicate they were six or seven grades behind, which makes for an inaccurate assessment. When I confronted the students, they admitted not taking it seriously, so I would agree student motivation on the test is an issue, but I don’t think teachers downplayed the test, as the scores reflect on the teachers. I once saw a student close the book within minutes. I reiterated to him the seriousness of the test. He went at it a few more minutes and quickly gave up and told me he just had no idea. I later had this student in class, got to know him, and understood why the test so overwhelmed him. He was about six grade levels behind.
There are two main victims to the fact that these islands have given short shrift to education since time immemorial. The student well behind grade level who can't get the academic intensive care he or she needs in classes of thirty plus, and the non-honors student at or slightly above grade level who gets a curriculum that isn't challenging enough and becomes bored. There are real consequences to the fact that each year more and more students enter public schools that are less and less funded. Platitudes like "bear with us" or "be creative" are what get uttered to say something in this situation. I prefer those to verbal abuse -- especially since education is a partnership between teachers, parents, students and community leaders, but all the blame gets dumped on teachers. As a parent of two and soon to be three, I hold myself as the one primarily responsible for the education and development of my boys, not their teachers.
This news report also noted that elementary schools have better participation in the tests. This is hardly surprising. Parental involvement is much higher at the elementary school level. Kids tend to succumb to more negative influences as they get older. It doesn't help that the middle schools are wildly overcrowded, and Hopwood in particular is in a shocking state of disrepair. There is a large administrative and teacher turnover all around related to all kinds of reasons as the islands' economy continues to implode. My personal opinion is that many of our elementary schools are on par with decent schools in the states. Things fall apart at the middle school level, and the first two years of high school are more like middle school. Educational research shows this isn’t just a CNMI problem, either. Research shows there are problems at the middle schools as a whole, as this is the place where learning slows down. Staffing research also shows that teachers tend to prefer to work in elementary schools or high schools, and not middle schools. The New York Times had a large feature on this issue recently.
I have a child in San Vicente Elementary School, and I've always been happy with that school, and I've heard good things about other elementary schools. However, my sons would never go to public middle school on this island, and that isn't a knock on the good people who work at those schools, but a comment on the area that I believe is most harmed by the CNMI's longstanding unwillingness to fund its schools. The impact of poor facilities, overcrowded classrooms and demoralized staff doing their best with students at a precocious and vulnerable age is most evident in our middle schools, and the situation there and system wide needs attention, not excuses.
Friday, November 30, 2007
My latest revelation came during yet another assembly. Watching the kids perform projects they created to demonstrate learning from their mistakes nearly brought me to tears. A group of girls presented steps to problem solving and a poem on friendship after a bullying incident big enough to involve DPS. A group of boys presented a research project on the negative effects of the use of tobacco (including a graphic photo of oral cancer). And my all time favorite, MY former class presenting a song they wrote about negative behavior in the library. Up to and including "Remix....Oh oh oh oh oh oh...why'd we have to go and kick him on the floor? We laughed. Oh oh oh oh oh oh... The entire audience was humming along. They followed it up with a poster about library behavior.
Looking at in writing, it doesn't seem so special, guess you had to be there. I guess the point I'm trying to make is how amazing children can be when given the freedom to express themselves. They demonstrated genuine learning through the restitution process. (I'm not gonna lie, I was worried they get up there and fall on their faces! But, they really blew me away.)
Tonight, I went to watch my students in the First Ladies Tree LIghting Competition. I was completely at peace listening to student performances, singing Christmas carols, and celebrating our third place win. There was something so soothing about just relaxing with the kids.
As if this weren't enough, a teacher volunteered to pay a $600 deposit out of her personal account in order to ensure the location for our staff Christmas party is secured in advance.
Days like today renew my faith in my profession and committment to my new position.
TODAY I LOVE MY JOB!! Quick, write that down before I change my mind! ; - )
For those who are struggling with the many pressures of our profession, keep the faith...your "ah ha" moments will come. Have faith in your students, as the community has faith in you.
Happy Holidays Teachers
Wednesday, November 21, 2007
There were many awesome performances from our schools! Congrats to all!! Some put a lot of hard work into it. Others, did not, (in my opinion),because of the school's choice of Teacher of the Year. I hope that all were able to relax and enjoy themselves this year!
As we ready ourselves for tomorrow, Thanksgiving Day, let us all stop and remember to be thankful for all the things that God has given us. The things that I am thankful for are; my family, the job that I have with PSS, my individual school family, the parents of my students and last, but most importantly my students. I wish all a VERY HAPPY THANKSGIVING!!
Sunday, November 4, 2007
This article appeared in the Variety over the weekend.
By Moneth G. Deposa
Variety News Staff
EDUCATION Commissioner David M. Borja on Friday said that without “clear guidance” from the Board of Education regarding the Public School System’s budget shortfall, PSS management will have no choice but to enforce a “salary reclassification” to cope with their limited personnel funding.
Last year, the board adopted a new salary scale for PSS personnel.
This was to apply to classroom teachers and school administrators who pass rigorous tests, obtain teaching certification and earn degrees.
Borja said the move to suspend this pay increase is in line with the PSS budgetary shortfall this fiscal year as a result of their budget of only $35 million and the administration’s failure to return the $2 million it “borrowed” from the school system.
“At this time, there is a need for us to consider that there is not adequate funding made available to PSS to process the pay hikes,” Borja said. “We would like to wait until there is some direction from the board on what PSS needs to do.”
PSS was supposed to issue the pay hike suspension memorandum to employees last week but decided to temporarily delay it until the board took action.
“We are informing the affected teachers on an individual basis that we are preparing the notice of personnel actions,” Borja said. “Our concern is that there is no way we can provide this (pay hike) because we have no funding.”
According to Borja, the board “needs to act now and identify solutions.”
He said the planned reclassification and modification will not only affect those who are waiting for their test results, but also highly qualified teachers.
“This will affect those who have met the certification steps, and attained the years of service and the degrees. The affected number increases on a daily basis,” Borja said.
PSS records show that there was a total of $37.3 million transferred by the finance department to the school system, of which $3.9 million was allotted to the “all others” category during FY 2007, or from Oct. 1 2006 to Sept. 30, 2007.
But PSS said the “cash” transferred totaled only $33.6 million.
Jeff posted about it on his blog. This is probably another incident of PSS shaming the government by exploiting teachers' and their families' fears of not being able to pay rent or buy groceries. Someone posted a comment on Jeff's blog about how we all need to sacrifice a little for the common good, about how there are plenty of teachers from the states who have been here for 15+ years and seem perfectly content, so therefore Jeff and others shouldn't be whining about not getting a raise. The author of the comment even implied that those of us who don't stick it out are just in it for the money and shouldn't be here anyway.
I can't think of anyone who has ever taken a teaching job for the money!!! That's funny and really, really pisses me off! My dad tried to talk me out of it. He wanted me to pursue medicine or bio-genetic engineering, which I could have done, but I didn't want it. He saw dollar signs, prestige.
This isn't about frivolous pay raises in a time of economic crisis. PSS, under Federal mandate, implemented criteria for teacher qualifications and a new salary schedule was also created. Several things happened all at once. Some teachers, like myself, quickly jumped through all the hoops to maintain certification because that's what I would have to do in any stateside school dist., and once the salary schedule was implemented, I got a pay increase to match my years of teaching, Masters degree and PRAXIS/CNMI classes etc. That pay increase closely matches what I got in Washington State where the cost of living is about the same as here.
This isn't about group sacrifice, which is a load of crap anyway. This is about following through on your word, honoring a contract and agreement made in good faith on the part of the teachers who did stick around even after the pay cut and restoring their pay. It is the ethical, moral and scrupulous thing to do.
A year ago, I was prepared to take the 10% cut. I was willing to lose a little to help make sure others kept their jobs. But every year a little more gets shaved off and then what's left? The everyone sacrifices for the common good line is starting to reek of self flagellation. I'm not a martyr for PSS and I won't sacrifice my personal health and wellbeing for the common good of a community that doesn't support what I do in the first place.
It's unethical for PSS to go to recruiting fairs in the US, paint a rosy picture, get teachers to move 6,000 miles from their homes and families, offer no assistance finding housing, furniture etc. and then 4 months into their job tell them they won't be getting the salary they were promised. If new recruits ask me, I would say come with caution and look at like a Peace Corps assignment with better benefits. And you'll either love it or hate it.
Thursday, November 1, 2007
We had three from the Casino Initative show up to inform us of their position. They did give a good presentation, and did answer questions given to them. Several sides of the topic was discussed. In my opinion of what they said, their reasoning for starting this and trying to see it through was as follows;
1) They want the indigenous people to be employed,
2) Keep the control of Casino's/gambling in the hands of the indigenous people,
3) To try to give something back to the community, by putting money into education, and other things,
4) To make a profit!!
That is the short and sweet version of what they said.
My opinion on the topic differed from theirs, because of my experiences with casinos and promises of money for education, in my home town. I do not condone or promote the idea of casino's on Saipan. I personally do NOT want to see anything else that will take anything away from our kids! Many of our students do not come to school with lunch money, or proper supplies for school. I also do NOT want anyone else breaking their promises to schools saying they will support us or the kids with more funding and it NEVER show up!
I hope that all who are registered to vote will get out and VOTE!!! No matter which side you are on, PLEASE VOTE THIS ELECTION DAY!!!!
Thursday, October 18, 2007
At the same time, Betty Miller has been breaking her chops trying to get something done with ACT. I don't see her getting any support from teachers or her officers. As Betty's friend, I must advise her to put her energy into her own family and her own school because simply put, the mass of teachers here isn't worth her time, but Betty is more generous than me so she probably will continue working without any help. Betty didn't say anything to me about this, and these aren't her thoughts. I just wanted the officers to know that people notice you ran and you aren't doing anything at all.
Monday, October 15, 2007
Micronesian Challenge Symposium
Introduction: The Micronesian Challenge aims to conserve marine and forest resources across the region. The program hopes to conserve at least 30% of near shore marine sources and 20% of forests all over Micronesia by the year 2020. Besides the CNMI, the other countries involved include Guam, the Marshall Islands, Palau, and the Federated States of Micronesia.
Guidelines for projects:
Originality: The data, results, innovations or models should be original.
Projects should cover at least two of the following aspects:
1. Natural environment
2. Social/cultural environment
3. Economic environment
Projects should involve some sort of social action (conducting research in the field like counting birds or trees, surveying people about their recycling habits, creating a play, podcast, website or brochure to educate the public, developing a service project that helps restore native plants or animals, etc. Most students will opt for Power Point because its easy. Limit the number of groups who are allowed to do this, or create a list of possible projects and have students select which on they want to do.
The project should also show student self reflection. The reflection may discuss how the project helped raise awareness and enhance knowledge on issues of sustainable development. Students may also write about how the project helped transform behavior and attitudes towards the environment. The reflection should also include problems encountered along the way and possible solutions.
Choose a Theme
As a class explore the purpose of the Micronesian Challenge and review the definition of sustainable development. Make a list of all of the issues students can think of that are connected to the challenge. Narrow down the list to one topic for Saipan, one for Tinian. Then break up the topic into specific questions to investigate.
Conduct a Literature Review
Try to look for any related news, websites, books, magazines, research papers, documentaries etc. that are related to your theme. By reviewing the already available information, narrow the scope of the research or project. For example, Global Warming would be too broad for a group to handle, but students could research the consumption of fossil fuels in the CNMI. Or a topic like How make a fuel cell may be too technical, but students could research energy sources that would reduce pollution in the ocean or on land. If the topic is recycling, students might look at the impact of not having a transfer station on the south end of the island, or whether a bottle bill would reduce littering, or whether curbside recycling would decrease the amount of garbage in the landfill.
Take notes, include citation of where the information is from (name of author, title, date published, page number, etc.)
1. 3 pages of notes due by the end of Week 3.
Methodology/Design of Research
This is the most challenging part of the project. Try to think about the final product. What resources, apparatus, materials, financial support, helpers expertise, etc. will groups need. If it is a research project, such as a survey or experiment looking at levels of pollution, the students will need to write a hypothesis and some experiments or statistical analysis to test the hypothesis. If students want to include some innovation e.g. making models, students need to specify if they used questionnaires, scientific investigation, interviews, etc.
1. Write an abstract for what you are going to do. This should be 1-2 pages and must be shown to your teacher for approval by the end of week 3.
2. Conduct research or implement project, record data or evaluate success. This must be finished by the end of week 6.
Writing a Report:
The report should include:
Introduction: (short abstract, highlights of literature review) (1-2 paragraphs)
Methodology: brief explanation of what the group did and how they did it. (1-2 paragraphs)
Results: It would be better to present the data in the form of graphs and tables. If possible, use some statistics e.g. mean, mode, median, standard deviation, etc. to present some pattern in the data. Summaries for the interviews should be shown if necessary. (1-2 Paragraphs)
Data interpretation: With reference to the results, students should give an interpretation of the data that is logical and systematic. They may describe and explain the trend of a graph. (1 paragraph)
Validity and reliability of the data: Students may also give comments on the validity and reliability of their data and results. If there is are any potential errors, please specify and try to think about how to improve the project. (1 paragraph)
Self reflection: Share your reflections during the process of completing the project.( 2-3 paragraphs)
Further investigation: what else would you study if you had more time or resources. (1 paragraph)
Conclusion: Make a concluding statement for your project. It should be concrete and precise. This is the core message that you want to share with your audience during presentations. (1 paragraph)
Create Poster Displays
The display should show highlights of the project and clearly state the conclusions of the group, what they learned, what they did and how it benefited the community. If the group put on a play, the poster should have pictures from the play, if the group developed a power point and presented to different groups, they should have pictures of where they presented, and copies of the slides, data on who they presented to, etc.
Each group will be given 5 minutes to present to the class. Every student must say something. They can use their posters, power point, hand outs etc. to present to the class. Presentations need to include the following:
Overview of what issue they picked and what they did
Who the project benefited
What they learned (self reflection)
What would they do differently next time
Tuesday, October 2, 2007
Part of classroom management is room configuration. This past Spring, I knew I'd be getting larger classes and I also knew, after 2 years in this room, that the table design in my room just doesn't work. The tables are about 3.5 feet wide and 15 feet long. They are nailed to the floor and have electrical outlets and sinks built in. The outlets and sinks sound great. However, the outlets are rarely used and can be a hazard for students wanting to stick things in them. And the sinks? Well, the sinks were convenient trash recepticles and betel nut spitoons.
I had the sinks covered in plywood and then I painted them with enamel paint. The problem is, the tables aren't conducive to small group learning and I can't move them. They are perfectly centered in the room, which leaves a lot of wasted space and they are falling apart. The metal trim is coming loose from students removing the screws. Yesterday, a student ripped his pants as he brushed up against the corner of the table.
Last June, I put in a request to cut my tables into thirds, add new legs, remove the metal trim, the sinks, outlets etc. I wanted tables on castors that I could move in the room to accomodate 30 students. I wanted tables where I could sit 4-5 students instead of 12.
But Capital Improvements said no. They said they spent several thousand dollars, umpteen years ago, building the room and couldn't justify taking it apart.
I guess if mom calls about wanting money for her son's pants, I'll refer her to Capital Improvements. I was even willing to pay for the lumber.
Monday, September 24, 2007
This is my first real blog and I do not have time today to create my profile, "pimp out" my blog, and all that good stuff. Just want to get this information to as many people as I can quickly. As the President of the Association of Commonwealth Teachers, I often hear complaints from teachers followed by "But what can we do?" While I do not pretend to have all the answers, I am not one to sit back and feel sorry for myself without trying to do do something about it. I believe that's why you elected me as President in the first place. An overall consensus at our first ACT meeting after the election was "You lead, we will follow." Well guys, it's time to do more than talk the talk. Let's walk the walk.
One thing that has become clear is we can not improve our current situation without addressing the funding issues facing PSS. The legislature holds the purse strings. The best way we can improve education in the CNMI is to work with the Legislature and BOE in addressing these issues. One way ACT can help is to assist in ensuring those who are elected are sensitive to the needs of our children and teachers. That's why we've chosen to host Pre-Election Educational Round Table Discussions each Wednesday evening until the elections. Below you will find the press release regarding the event.
I realize we all have hectic schedules, and the last thing you need in your life is another meeting. But please, for the sake of our children attempt to make time to attend one or more of these educational round tables. As teachers and PSS employees, our numbers are many. It's time to stand united. Together, we can make a difference!
Concerned about the future of Education in the CNMI?So are we! The Association of Commonwealth Teachers is calling for all interested community members to join us in Pre-election Educational Round Table Discussions with the candidates.
The purpose of these events is to ensure that teachers, parents, and the community are able to meet the candidates and ask questions regarding their plans for education. This will allow voters to make informed decisions in casting their votes for members of the Legislature, Senate, and Board of Education. Round Table discussions will be held Wednesday evenings at 7:00 P.M. in the cafeteria of San Vicente Elementary. Candidates from Precinct One are invited to join us for this Wednesday's Round Table.
All interested members of the community are invited to join us at these gatherings. You do not have to be a registered voter or a resident of the specified precinct in order to attend. Should you have any questions, feel free to contact The Association of Commonwealth Teachers at email@example.com.
Tuesday, September 18, 2007
At Hopwood, we purchased science kits for 7th and 8th grade. As I was restocking the chemistrcy kits for 7th grade I noticed one of them was never even opened. I surveyed my students and only the one of the 3 7th grade teams represented used the kit.
For the past 2 years we've had a 50% turn over rate in the science department with teachers.
Sunday, September 2, 2007
I know a couple things. The minute my check is late, I will be be on speed dial, around the clock, to Rep. George Miller's office and the Department of Education encouraging a federal takeover of PSS, and a lot of people will be getting a lot of scrutiny they don't want if that happens. I'm pretty sure No Child Left Behind doesn't allow school to be closed because you spent all your money fighting federalization. A state takeover of a school system is what happens in a failing system. It has happened a lot in the most troubled districts. I'm not sure how common federal takeovers are, but in this case "local government" can't handle local government, a stick in the eye for all the people ready to secede to defend their right to a local government that may not be able to make teacher payroll and will have to close the schools, unless slavery is now legal. Basic service one, power, is already a fiasco. Ambrose has been saying for months a federal takeover is needed-- I don't think years in this case. The next thing will be to consult with a lawyer, as sending people to work when you know you can't pay them is the definition of fraud. Maybe I can own land here after all. Note to all parties involved here. I am not a contract worker you can abuse so easily. I speak English very well, I have a blue passport, I'm not option less and I may have a lot of time on my hands to make a lot of peoples' lives more difficult, and that will be my singular focus 24/7 if that happens. I suspect the prospect of no paycheck and fraud will even get the comatose lumps that make up 80 percent of my teacher peers to chip in and help.
PSS needs to close all the schools if this is the case -- now. I don't want to hear nonsense like, "it's for the children, work for free." When my rent is free, and the Nuggets at Java Joes are free, and Shell gasoline is free, I'll consider working for free. Until then, forget it. Don't I have enough of a stressful job without worrying about being cheated? I already have basically the job of two teachers. Do you think teachers who don't know if they will be getting paid are going the extra mile? It will be hilarious, and slightly sad really, to see the looks on the faces of the new recruits unaccustomed to the fly by night nature of how the CNMI government operates when they read this news. There simply is no excuse for even reading this in the paper -- none -- especially when the government is cutting absurd checks to lobbyists, public relations firms and Jesus Camacho.
"EMPLOYEES of Public School System may get no paychecks until the end of thefiscal year on Sept. 30 following the administration’s failure to return theamount it cut from the previous budget of PSS and to release federalCompact-Impact money that was to cover the PSS payroll until Oct. 15.PSS actingfinance director Lori A. Grizzard, acting Education Commissioner Charlie Kentyand PSS federal programs officer Tim Thornburgh said the school system isrunning out of money to cover the three remaining pay periods for its 797locally funded employees, who include teachers and support staff.Theadministration cut the PSS FY 2006 budget by $2 million but promised to returnit in the FY 2007 fourth quarter allocation. “PSS is still waiting for that $2million that was borrowed in FY 2006 which was to cover expenditures for theprior year,” Grizzard said. “The promised restoration will cover our shortfall.”
Friday, August 31, 2007
After getting them to quiet "a little", we finished lunch and went back to our already heating-up classroom. There we stayed, my students and I, trying to learn and teach in that environment until almost two p.m.. Does anyone do their best in an uncomfortable environment?
Some schools contacted CUC, found out it would be out longer than two hours, and let their students go home. We could not contact CUC, because phones are tied to power. This meant that we just had to endure. One cannot teach computer, use the overhead projector, or a Power Point presentation if the power is off. This can make teaching very dificult! It is not always easy to come up with enough creative teaching methods to fill two hours in the dark. CUC and the schools have to find a better solution to "keep the power on" for education's sake.
Monday, August 27, 2007
The retirement of thousands of baby boomer teachers coupled with the departureTeaching students interested in learning is a total joy -- the frustration of the discipline problems drives most people out of the business. Of my current crop about 3 in 4 are really there to learn within reason, and 1 in 4 are there to deprive the other 3 of that opportunity. I'm better than most at keeping that 1 in 4 on task, but it is exhausting and demoralizing to have to do so all the time.
of younger teachers frustrated by the stress of working in low-performing
schools is fueling a crisis in teacher turnover that is costing school districts
substantial amounts of money as they scramble to fill their ranks for the fall
term. Superintendents and recruiters across the nation say the challenge of
putting a qualified teacher in every classroom is heightened in subjects like
math and science and is a particular struggle in high-poverty schools, where the
turnover is highest. Thousands of classes in such schools have opened with
substitute teachers in recent years.
Also, when I went into this field I was single, and I was being paid enough for me. I didn't look down the line so much. I don't have a big money complaint with things here now, but when I look at the salary guides for the states that aren't much better, and being aware how much more expensive things like housing and car insurance are there, plus all the other options that don't exist here that grab at your money, I wonder how I will be able to make it work. I could easily be one of those people who have to get out that are described in this piece.
I'd be curious to hear from my teacher readers if they expect to be in this profession 5, 10 or 15 plus years down the line.
Sunday, August 26, 2007
Friday, August 24, 2007
Through all of these transitions I hope that the administration keeps putting the focus on student performance, not on which department is getting the most funding or on trying to keep the funding equal! I know, understand and appreciate everyone's right and responsibility to keep the culture alive, BUT, WE ARE HERE TO TEACH ENGLISH! I hope that we can throw out old ideas of seperating english or language from everything else. Without knowing english, one cannot read in english. All subjects depend on this! To learn any language there are two levels. First, the spoken language, and then the written language. PGFC, NJFL, NFL, and Thespians all embrace both these two areas and should continue to be funded in full! No other program in the CNMI gives all ages the opportunities that these students are recieving. Some have even recieved scholorships to college from these worthwhile programs.
I hope that like many things both here and in the states, that PSS does NOT throw away the programs by discontinuing the funding of accedemically linked programs that benifit our students both now and in the future!
Please leave your concerns or comments! Remember, our Board members are reading!
Monday, August 20, 2007
What is clear to me is that teachers system wide simply do not emphasize the basics enough. I would say a full half of the seniors could not write two sentences clearly differentiating plurals and possessives. I mean given instructions, and examples, and days of instruction, a student could not write: "There are ten cats outside my house" followed by "The cat's tail is long and white" consistently if asked to do so. Forget about the wrinkle of plural possessive, that blows the situation up even worse. I suspect they were doing it the wrong way for so long it became ingrained. I wonder if the teachers were correcting these things.
If I had a nickel for every "his my friend" I've seen in a paper, I'd be buying Google tonight. Tense, subject/verb agreement and other mildly confusing subtle word differences like your/you're, its/it's are a train wreck. I've been working on these issues since school started this year, and a considerable number of students still can't do it consistently. Perhaps I suck as a teacher, I don't know anymore, but I'm growing weary and demoralized by this state of affairs -- already. The parents need to get involved. I've never really seen any involved, at least among the students that most need help. They seem to think that parental involvement is strictly an elementary school function. It isn't.
I routinely get sentences without punctuation or capital letters or simply giant uni-paragraph essays. I emphasize the correct fashion pointing out the most common problems almost daily, but it doesn't seem to matter much. I look over 120 of these displays a day, and it wears me down saying the same thing 50 times a day. Of all the classes, Language Arts needs a size reduction, but it is the largest class across the board -- exactly the worst thing possible.
World awareness is even worse. I've had people tell me that Toronto was a city in the country of "Europe," and that "Baby Ruth" was the first African-American in Major League Baseball. Students think the governor is in charge of every last detail of a civilization including the price of gas, and many can't give you a ballpark time period for World War II.
Teachers have a near impossible task here, I know this all too well, but I can say for sure they aren't ensuring mastery of the basics. It has to stop. A student at the very least upon graduation should be able to read and understand literature as simple as the Saipan Tribune and write in at least a reasonably grammatical fashion. They aren't right now, and it has to stop.
Sunday, August 19, 2007
Today in class, we reviewed what we learned last week about nutrients, digestion and nutrition, by playing a game that Sally found on the internet. In the game, the students create an assembly line to represent the digestive system. A 'food particle' represented by a small ziplock bag with candy (nutrients) is inside a larger bag with corn starch packaging foam and shredded paper. That bag is inside a larger bag with the same filling. The 'teeth' tear open the bag and saliva (water) is added. The food particle is passed down the esophagus, where the food is squeezed and in the 'stomach', acids (water) are added and the food is squished some more. In the 'small intestine', pancreatic juices (water) are added and the bag is squeezed some more. Then the bag with the nutrients is removed and given to the 'blood', to be delivered to the 'cells'. The 'large intestines' mop up the excess water from the table and pass the remaining waste to the 'rectum' which poops it out into a garbage can.
During each class period, there are 6 teachers on prep. If someone is absent, the teachers on prep sub and we rotate days so we don't lose our prep every day. Since 7 teachers out today, the counselors had to sub too. So Doug printed out a word search on careers and had the students look up different types of careers in the library. I have to sub today for Bilingual. In the past I've taught Spanish, since some of the words transfer. But today, I was going to just show a movie, when a miracle happened. Someone brought me an activity for the students to do!!! I don't know if the teacher prepared it in advance or someone else did, but that made my day a little better.
Anyway, the Bangle's song, "Manic Monday", is going through my head.
Just another Manic Monday
Wish it were Sunday
Cuz that's my Funday
Thursday, August 16, 2007
An example of a GREAT PD was the one offered by Florine Hoffschnieder(Please excuse me if this isn't spelled write!). The workshop was a writing institute that all would have benefited from! It was an extension of an intense writing workshop put on this summer. Even a Bilingual teacher shared how it was helping her students learn how to write.
Did you attend a workshop worth mentioning? If so, please leave a comment! If you know of one that you atended or heard about in the past let us know! Maybe we can start recomending ideas to Ms. Jackie.
Enjoy you second day of PD's. Remember, be on the lookout for GREAT ones!
Friday, August 10, 2007
In a Letter to the Editor, last week, Richard A. Pierce stated that "Victims are entitled to our compassion, but not if they have chosen their own misfortune." In teaching, both on this island and off, teachers do not set themselves up to be the victims, but are becoming the victims.
The Legislature and PSS(Public School System) continue to take advantage of teachers. They take whatever teachers are willing to give to this island and to their children, without consideration of what it costs to the teacher. Teachers have to buy everything for their classroom. This year, even trash bags! What's next? Toilet Tissue? Well guess what, we are almost there!
Teachers did not go to four years of college, sometimes much more for their masters and beyond, and keep up with the latest and best practices in education, just to be taken advantage of! No! No teacher ever went into education because of the money. They go into it for the joy of sharing information with their students and seeing those "lights" go on when a student "gets it". But, enough is enough!
How can the legislature give themselves a raise, keep public access from their records, etc...? How can CUC continue to waste electricity-by putting in not one, but four cameras in customer service, by having the third floor so cold that they need to wear long sleeves to work, hire more employees-even though there is supposed to be a hiring freeze on, etc...?
But, teachers keep getting told there is NO money to hire more teachers, there is NO money to buy supplies, they have NO right to complain or question, etc...! How much more do teachers have to contribute before they are accepted as a part of the community and are treated equally?
I hope and pray that teachers here will wake up and assist ACT NOW CNMI to make working conditions better for all of us! This is as close to the forbidden word of "Union" as we will ever get. So, all teachers ACT NOW !
Thursday, August 9, 2007
Well, here is one thing I suppose I'm not so liberal about, and it probably will cost me money for saying so. There is a scam going on in this island right now. Yeah, yeah, one of the many. This one is kind of new.
South Korea has long been under the spell of English mania. There are English tutor schools, called hagwons, about every ten feet in Seoul -- along with coffee shops, karaoke rooms and computer rooms. I mean this pretty literally. Rick Vaughn is there right now and can attest to that fact. I worked at two well known hagwons before moving to Saipan and enjoyed my fun, yet going nowhere, jobs there. These hagwons are English conversation schools that all age groups attend, usually early in the morning or in the evening after work, and they are more businesses than school. Some of the teachers at these schools are good, but most have no qualifications at all, are clueless about teaching and are there for cheap beer, Asian girls, to pay down college debt or simply just to travel. In order to practice real world conversation with, in their usual preference, "white Americans," preferably young and female, but definitely young, Koreans flock to these schools, and pay $100 to $200 per month for this talking privilege. I had a British friend/co-worker who was once instructed to teach English with an American accent.
Right now, the CNMI public schools are being flooded with Korean students. I don't believe they have family or businesses here. They are here to graduate an American high school, which gives them a better chance to get into an American college. Two years ago, given my Korean experience, I attempted to start a Korean Club at SSHS. The mere 20 Korean kids in the entire school had some kind of rift in their community, so it never happened. That community has grown enormously since then, and it seems to have exploded this year. Right now I have 20 Korean students in my class alone. You will hear more Korean spoken than Chamorro or Carolinian on our campus. Koreans are obsessed with getting an American education. Many pregnant Korean women fly to the states, or here or Guam to get American citizenship and get their male child out of required Korean military service, which is a cruel joke. The South Korean government pulls these young men out of college after their sophomore year in college to mostly stand around some military base and do little as soldiers. They give them free cigarettes, which leads to an unhealthy addiction that is hard to break. These young men don't get to start their real adult lives with their chosen career until age 26 or later, and women shy away from men in their early 20s because they'll hardly get to see them for years. I always felt bad for these men about this scenario.
I found out today that the school system here is not allowed to ask the registering student about their immigration status. The student could be here illegally, or on a tourist visa, and PSS can't ask or find out. This is according to a counselor I talked with about this issue today. I think it is likely young school aged Koreans are coming in on tourist visas and just enrolling in the schools since these students usually make a trip to Seoul after a few months and start the CNMI Visa process again. The parents are seldom, if ever, actually living here. They are paying for a home stay program. Many of these students have little to no English ability. The high school language arts classes are wildly packed, and frankly, Korean families on this island are running a home stay program for a great profit, and they are shifting the education burden on the already overburdened and underfunded Public School System. I consider it a scam.
This English education as I see it is hardly in the interest of the Korean student. The English classes aren't ESL classes. I don't teach the class like I'm teaching a bunch of Koreans who hardly know the language, and to do so is unfair to the other 25 local kids who need me to bring them up to speed on skills they are already lacking. I have more than one student who doesn't know word one of English, has no idea what I'm saying and just looks at the sky for 80 minutes. He was ushered in like cattle by some Korean guy who announced that he's a junior, but he's really bad at English, so he's in freshmen English, as if I'm teaching at a hagwon. There really isn't much I could do for this person even if he was the only student I had, which he decidedly is not. In Korea, this type of student would work with a Korean bilingual teacher to bring them up to a level to be ready for a foreign teacher and more advanced English. PSS isn't about to do this.
What's happening is a scam that rips off the CNMI taxpayers. It's not good for the Korean students. It's not good for the local students. It's not good for the teachers. It's only good for Korean families getting paid a lot of money to look out for some Korean kid shipped off to a strange place for "free" English lessons on the backs of the CNMI taxpayer.
I know and like a lot of Korean people. I've probably interacted with more Korean people than most Koreans. More Koreans on island is good for me because, toot toot, I consider myself about the best suited person on this whole island for Korean ESL, and this post probably precludes me getting any more students for that purpose, but this is a scam going on right now, so I'm going to say something about it.
Sunday, August 5, 2007
I got my termite infested door replaced this summer and will make due with long, un-moveable tables that seat 12 students (a much, much too big group at one table) in a room designed for 20 students (there are 30 on my roster for each class for a total of 180). I have my homeroom kid's names memorized.
I covered up the sinks with plywood last year, because they were recepticals for garbage and betel nut. I asked to cut the tables, remove the sinks and make them moveable, thus making my room more ammenable to 30 students. Capital Improvements said, "well, we spent several thousand dollars, 15 years ago building that room as a lab and we don't see how remodeling the tables would be a good idea". Okay, no offense, but I'm the fricking science teacher who has 30 students in my class! God Damn It!!!
It's all right, I'm flexible, I make do. I painted the walls a cream that matches the cream on all the walls outside, because the school had left over paint. Last year I got 5 gallons of pink for $10. It was the only color ACE had. I'm not a fan of pink but it was better than grimy walls that hadn't seen anything but gecko poop and termite wings for 5 years until I took over the room. So I feel a little renewed. I covered my luevered windows with old carpet padding from my old apartment and magenta (again pink!!) butcher paper. Now its the battle of adhesive tape v.s. humidity. We know who will win. I'll be constantly retaping, borrowing Mario's ladder, or precariously climbing up on chairs, utility sinks and book shelves, to smack the paper back up on the wall. My floors need waxing, but Ronald, who does the waxing for extra cash to make up for his measely wage as a parapro, is off while his wife is in the hospital. He offered to donate sick leave to Doug last year when Doug missed 4 weeks of work. We graciously refused because I knew he'd need it more than us.
I am an optimist. I have PDA's enroute to create a paperless classroom. I also ordered some probe ware. Don't know where that is at the moment.
I painted "Science Never Sucks" on my door. The security guard came and told me today (Sunday) that someone had vandalized my door. I smiled and explained it was me who painted it and pointed to the printed sign on the inside of the door that said the same thing. I think he only saw "science" and "sucks".
Near the end of the year last year, my team took our students on a field trip to the Kagman Watershed Education Island and Tank Beach to do a cleanup project. Then we went to ChaCha to watch Hopwood 8th graders challenge Cha Cha 8th graders in a game of softball. Three 7th graders stowed away on my bus. Imagine my dismay, anger and frustration when these totally unfamiliar faces got off the bus at the watershed park. I drove them back to Hopwood and lectured them about how irresponsible they were, blah blah blah, posed empty threats about them being on my team next year, blah blah blah.
Guess who's in my homeroom?!!! I had a lot of fun with those boys on Friday (wicked Mr. Burns esque grin on my face).
Final observation from the first week:
The CNMI Civics and Economics book refers to African Americans as Negros.