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Charlotte Amalie
Tuesday, July 23, 2024


In the midst of the territory-wide teachers' strike, a high-ranking Virgin Islands education official left St. Thomas Thursday morning on a 10-day vacation despite Education Commissioner Ruby Simmonds' directive canceling leaves for top personnel.
Education spokeswoman June Archibald confirmed that Rosalia Payne, insular superintendent of schools for St. Thomas-St. John, had taken her annual leave Thursday. Payne is a member of the leadership team to whom the directive applied, Archibald said.
James O'Bryan Jr., assistant to the governor, said Thursday that Payne had approached Gov. Charles W. Turnbull for assistance on getting her vacation. She apparently had paid $3,000 on a nonrefundable vacation, O'Bryan said. He said the governor was "not excited about his superintendent not being here during the strike."
The governor brought the matter up at a cabinet meeting and asked for a legal opinion on whether the government could refund Payne her money and keep her on the job. He was told it was not "legally proper," and Turnbull thus allowed Payne's leave, according to O'Bryan, "with great reluctance."
O'Bryan termed the governor's action a "judgement call." He said the governor "recognized there will be people who will see the situation another way."
Asked if the tour company Payne used had been contacted about the refund, O'Bryan said all alternatives had been considered.
Payne had worked "around the clock, tirelessly," all summer on school renovations, O'Bryan said, and she believed she was entitled to her vacation, the strike notwithstanding.
In a statement issued Thursday afternoon, Payne called her vacation "well-deserved" and said, "I have not taken any leave in over one year."
She said the trip had been planned for more than a year and that Simmonds had been aware of the upcoming vacation since early September.
Deputy St. Thomas-St. John superintendent William Frett becomes acting superintendent in Payne's absence, Archibald said.

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