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Charlotte Amalie
Saturday, June 22, 2024


June 2, 2003 – Education Commissioner Noreen Michael confirmed at press conference on Monday having received word last week that three of the territory's public high schools were granted candidacy for accreditation while the fourth — Ivanna Eudora Kean — was not.
She said the Middle States Association of Colleges and Schools cited six areas in which Eudora Kean did not meet criteria to qualify as a candidate for accreditation.
"In arriving at a decision to withhold candidacy to the school at this time," Michael said in prepared remarks, Middle States stated that Kean "did not meet 'entry level candidacy standards' of the Commission on Secondary Schools" in the six areas. Of special concern, she said, were "health, safety and security of students; facilities; finances; stability in leadership; and lack of willingness and interest in engaging in the accreditation process."
Although Michael did not want to go into detail on the shortcomings identified, she said the health factor had to do with a lack of a school nurses.
Sharlene Harris, V.I. director of libraries, a Kean alumna and a member of an EKHS research committee, mentioned the stability in leadership and "lack of willingness" factors. Eudora Kean has not had a permanent principal since Sinclair Wilkinson retired more than a year ago. Lydia Lettsome, who was named acting principal at that time, has continued in that acting capacity ever since.
"We will ensure that the school year begins with a permanent principal," Michael said Monday.
The security concern had special significance with word that the school had been broken into over the weekend and that 90 Junior ROTC Springfield rifles and 20 other guns had been stolen. (See "110 ROTC firearms taken in Eudora Kean break-in".)
Michael noted in her prepared remarks that there have been two Virgin Islands visits by Middle States teams this year. The first, in the third week of April, was to interview the commissioner, the school superintendents and the chairs of various subcommittees associated with an Education Department Central Office self-study. The second, beginning May 4, was to visit the four schools.
"A three-member team spent the entire school day on campus" at Central, Charlotte Amalie and Educational Complex High Schools, Michael said. But "for the IEKHS visit, only two team members conducted the school visit."
Central, CAHS and Eudora Kean previously were accredited; in November 2001, after years of repeated warnings, Middle States announced that it was withdrawing the accreditation of all three. (See "Public high schools to lose accreditation".) The Education Department appealed the decision but the appeal was rejected in April 2002.
Educational Complex, the newest of the four schools, has never previously sought accreditation.
For the three schools approved for accreditation candidacy, Michael said, "Middle States has recommended a self-study/planning schedule … for September 2003 through December 2004 and a team visit to make a determination on accreditation in spring of 2005."
The self-study process, she said, will involve, among other things, surveying students, teachers and parents.
Regarding the deficiencies cited by Middle States for Eudora Kean, Michael said: "We hope to address these items so that at the end of the calendar year we would be in a position to ask them [the Middle States team members] to come back."
She said she had spoken earlier Monday morning with Middle States associate director Mary Ann Keeley, who "noted that there is no specific amount of time that must elapse prior to the school requesting another candidacy visit."
Also, Michael said, Keeley indicated "there was such a quick turn-around on the candidacy reports" after the May site visits "to allow the schools the opportunity to address issues raised in the reports during the summer months."
Michael said the Virgin Islands is on schedule in complying with a series of Corrective Action Steps agreed to with Middle States last June and then renegotiated in September after Middle States conducted an Accreditation Institute in the territory. "To date, all corrective action steps that were due have been completed,"she said.
These include:
– Transferring control of hiring from the Personnel Division to the Education Department.
– Providing school-based budgets for staffing, programming, supplies and maintenance needs.
– Submitting separate action plans for improving student and teacher attendance.
– Establishing an adequate system-wide substitute teacher pool.
– Completing the Central Office self-study.
– Hosting Middle States team candidacy visits.
The next deadline on the Corrective Action Steps schedule is June 30, by which time the territory is to "demonstrate a measurable reduction in the number of uncovered classes" due to teacher unavailability.
Michael said that to address low student attendance, some schools have individuals telephone parents after hours to let them know if their youngsters are not attending classes. Also, she said, awards are given to students and faculty with exemplary attendance.
To ensure that there are funds to pay substitute teachers, she said, a separate fund has been set up, with money to be available by November.
In order for the accreditation process to be a success, Michael said, personnel in the Education Department from the maintenance workers to the commissioner must work together as a unit. "We can only be successful if we work together," she said. "The more we work together, the more successful we are going to be."

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