Much is being said about our public schools losing accreditation. Our public education system was failing our students long before losing accreditation. Some students excel in spite of the failing system not because of it. Students with supportive and diligent parents will be able to achieve certain academic excellence, but they are a very small minority. The majority of the students were underachievers while the schools were accredited; that is my understanding of the history of the public education system during the last twenty years in the US Virgin Islands. Accreditation does not guarantee a good education.
I believe there are many factors that contributed to the deterioration of the public education system, the most notorious is political interference. The appointment of persons in lead management positions that were not prepared for those roles. The slow and inefficient appointment system of the Department of Education is another factor. The removing of very competent teachers from the classrooms to administrative positions is another factor. Keeping teachers in the system that really do not qualify to be teachers or even substitute teachers. Poor screening of personnel hired in the system. Poor management of available resources; are all factors contributing to the poor state of the public school system. The elected Board of Education have failed in my view to exercise fully the statutory mandate it has to support the public education system and/or give the proper direction.
There are some remedies that we should take into consideration immediately. First I would recommend that we go back to basics, by stressing the three Rs from elementary through secondary school. Avoid social promotions. Teachers should be required to be proficient in the three Rs at all levels and be recertified at least once every five years. Define the qualifications for members to the Board of Education, such as having representatives from the parent/teachers associations, someone who has worked in the field of education or an educator, a person who is in business; someone from private and parochial schools. It is very apparent to me that the most important issue for us to address as a community is the education of our youth. Accreditation cannot educate our students, it helps only some student. Those intending to attend certain colleges or universities. The focus should be on the majority of the students, many of which are not going to go college but they need the basic skills that the three Rs will help provide. Not all students are interested in a college education, some may want to go to technical schools, some may want to enter the military or go into business for themselves. Vocational education is and should be recognized as an integral part of preparing our youth for life. We need to provide the basics, our own standardized tests should reflect proficiency in the basics. We need to help develop well rounded individuals that will be assets to any community, primarily our own community.
Do our politicians have the will to do what is required to improve our educational system? I am not sure they have the understanding of the problems much more to implement solutions. So it is up to the citizens, the residents, the taxpayers to propose solutions and demand implementation. We must let the politicians know we are tired of demagoguery and want concrete solutions or else. Power to the people, exercise your rights, that is your responsibility do not blame anyone but yourself for the state of our government, our schools. We need to take decisive legal actions and any other actions that will give us positive results regardless of who is sacrificed, in our quest for better schools and education for our youth.
St. Thomas, VI
Editor's note: We welcome and encourage readers to keep the dialogue going by responding to Source commentary. Letters should be e-mailed with name and place of residence to email@example.com.
Publisher's note : Like the St. Croix Source now? Find out how you can love us twice as much — and show your support for the islands' free and independent news voice… click here.