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Charlotte Amalie
Monday, May 20, 2024


Dec. 4, 2001 – Ivanna Eudora Kean High School Principal Sinclair Wilkinson said he believes the territory's high schools will be able to keep their accreditation when an appeal filed by the Virgin Islands government goes through.
Wilkinson told a group of about 50 parents and school officials at the high school's Parent-Teacher-Student Association meeting Monday evening that the high schools are in danger of losing the accreditation only because Education Department officials were late in filing a report to the Middle States Association of Colleges and Schools, which is the territory's accrediting institution.
That comment brought gasps of disbelief from some of the parents at the meeting. The school officials also acknowledged that the schools have not addressed any of the four underlying reasons that Middle States has given for loss of the accreditation.
Charlotte Amalie, Eudora Kean and Central High Schools are to lose their accreditation Dec. 31 because of continuing problems with teacher absenteeism, student absenteeism, a lack of a substitute teacher pool and lack of site-based management. The last point means that the schools' administrators do not have control of budgeting and many day-to-day functions on their campuses.
(It also became known Monday night at a Senate Education Committee hearing on St. Croix that another reason for the loss of accreditation was that Eudora Kean officials have not paid their dues to Middle States in three years. However, this was not mentioned at the Kean PTSA meeting.)
The problems outlined by Middle States mean, in effect, that too many students aren't showing up for classes, and that those students who do show up often find that they have no teachers in their classrooms. Lack of a substitute teacher pool means that no substitute teachers are available. Lack of site-based management means that, among other things, administrators do not have the means or the authority to pay a substitute to take over classes in an emergency. The result, parents and teachers have said, is that students regularly do not have class for one or more periods each day.
When asked if he had seen school administrators making any progress toward addressing those concerns, the Eudora Kean PTSA president, Pastor Gladston Hazel said: "No, not yet. I don't see them doing anything."
Hazel said he was very concerned about the impending loss of accreditation for the same reasons that Wilkinson said concerned him: that it could hurt students' chances of gaining admittance to college and could hurt their chances of earning scholarships for higher education. They said that loss of accreditation also meant loss of the knowledge that the school meets certain standards that are expected nationwide of secondary schools.
St. Thomas Administrator Louis Hill told those at the meeting that officials under Gov. Charles W. Turnbull are filing an appeal asking Middle States to reconsider the decision to drop the accreditation. Turnbull has met with Middle States officials to discuss what can be done, he said.
"The governor has practically begged them not to take away the accreditation," Hill said. He added that Turnbull, who has billed himself as "the education governor," was "extremely upset" when he heard about the impending loss of accreditation. "I have never seen him so upset," Hill said.
Hill said that more improvements have been made in the territory's school system under Turnbull than had been made in years before. He cited physical improvements — such as the opening of the newly rebuilt Lockhart and Peace Corps Elementary Schools and Bertha C. Boschulte Middle School — along with extensive summer maintenance work on the schools and funding increases to bring teacher salaries up to step.
Turnbull has pledged to use the accreditation crisis as a means of further improving the schools, and Hill urged the parents to work with administrators to find ways to address the problems cited by the accreditation officials.
He and some parents suggested utilizing retired teachers as substitutes and encouraging other people with university degrees to help out.
Several people noted that the Virgin Islands faces several systemic obstacles in addressing the Middle States concerns.
– The teachers' union contract allows a teacher to be absent for two weeks' worth of classes plus another five personal days with pay. On any given day at Eudora Kean, Wilkinson said, as many as 12 teachers could be absent under the terms of their contract; at CAHS, he added, the number could be 16.
– The University of the Virgin Islands cannot produce enough teachers to fill the school system's needs, Hill said, and teachers must be recruited from the mainland. But the salaries offered are not high enough to attract many qualified candidates, he said.
– The political system in the territory does not allow for site-based management, Hill said, and the law would need to be changed to allow for it.
Several parents said they wanted to open dialog with school administrators to determine what they can do to address problems. Improving the schools is an obligation of the entire community, they said.
"We as parents need to know what we can do to help," said Vashti Liburd, the mother of a Eudora Kean senior. "We need to know what we can do to help regain our accreditation."

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