Tuesday, December 25, 2007

Happy Holidays

Act Members, how about a time out to enjoy our time off. Regards Bryan Jones.

Sunday, December 23, 2007

Ambrose Asks to Remain as Acting Teacher Rep. to BOE

Thank You James,

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

Jeff Turbitt's take on the Betty Miller melodrama

Update: There was a meeting to debate, discuss and vote on this matter, and naturally less than seven people showed up, and none of the people who made the fuss. I told Betty I had it with ACT months ago, but I went tonight for her. Another waste of time.

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).

James Yangetmai's take

Happy holidays fellow teachers!

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!

James Yangetmai

Phyllis clairifies on CNMI Constitution

This is ridiculous. Kindly forward:
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.

Bryan, and Jaime respond to Ambrose

Betty ... please forward this all our membershipDear Jaime, Thanks ... for your letter in response to Ambrose's self serving letter to Betty ...It was a pleasure to read your creative words to one who just can'tseem to let go of his " Illusions of Grander."
Bryan Jones

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

Meeting Notice

Greetings All,

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.

Betty Miller
ACT President

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.


Name _________________________________________

Position _______________________________________

School _________________________________________

Ambrose again

Hola Teachers,

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.


Other ACT Members Respond (including Betty's personal opinion)

Greeting Collegues:

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.

Phyllis responds to Ambrose

This is my response to Mr. Bennett's message. Please feel free todisseminate to the membership.
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.

Jaime responds to Ambrose

Thanks, Ambrose.
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.
Jaime Vergara

Ambrose Bennett's opinon on ACT President as BOE Teacher Rep.

Please forward this to all teachers so they will have a point of view from each side before you start a character assisination of me in the news you owe teachers that much respect.>> You can erase this note.
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

Speak Now or Forever Hold Your Peace

Greetings All:

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 cnmiactnow@gmail.com or check out our website at www.cnmiactnow.com.

Betty Miller
ACT President

Thursday, December 6, 2007

The Schools Need Help, Not Excuses

By Jeffrey C. Turbitt

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.