Jan. 19, 2005 "Education is like a flower let it bloom!" reads a brightly colored mural on a faded pink hallway of Addelita Cancryn Junior High School.
Education wasn't blooming Wednesday morning; it was in submission, as students, teachers and some parents held a protest against school conditions for the second day in a row.
If education is, indeed, a flower it is badly in need of watering from government officials at the maligned school, teachers agreed. The teachers were anxious to express their frustration with trying to educate their students in adverse conditions.
In fact, after the morning demonstration, most of the teachers, after a brief meeting, walked out for the day about 11:45. They will return Wednesday at 5:30 p.m. for an emergency Parent Teacher Association meeting, according to teacher Gloria Salas-Lindquist.
Principal Yvonne Pilgrim said school was still in progress for the balance of the day, but with a limited number of teachers and students. Shortly after noon, she said she was assessing the condition. Most of the more than 900 students were streaming away after the teachers' decision.
World Geography teacher Wendy Diaz, stood outside the school's entrance with a group of students Wednesday morning before the walkout. Diaz is one of the teachers whose homeroom was destroyed in a November fire. "We are displaced in old physical education rooms which are not in the best condition. We have few textbooks. The ones we have are missing pages and covers, and they have to share one book for three students," Diaz said, adding, "All our books were lost in the fire, and nothing has been done to replace them."
Diaz expressed frustration with the parents, as well as the school conditions. "They are being critical of us, but they don't take an active role. They don't attend the PTA meetings. We would never put the kids in danger, but we are being criticized this morning." This is not the first time Diaz has expressed this concern. In December 2003 Diaz stood with a group students holding a one-day hunger strike protesting the school's condition and the lack of parental involvement. (See "Cancryn Students Hunger For Gym, AC." )
As for the kids, who were lined up about three deep at the front school fence, they said they, too, had had enough. A group of about 10, when asked what they would like if they could name one thing, said, "A school. A whole school, a school with materials." And, one asked, "Where is Turnbull; he was supposed to be helping us get books."
The students held signs leaving nothing to the imagination: "SOS My school is a cesspool – the government needs to do something now! Another sign read: "SOS Children are the future – give us a fighting chance – help now!"
Sen. Liston Davis, Senate Education Committee chair, who had been at the school Tuesday, made a Wednesday visit. He tried to sound hopeful. "We may see some movement on a contractor today," he said. Davis said he thought there was a meeting "with agencies" Wednesday where some action could be taken, but he was careful not to predict the outcome.
Davis, a long-time figure in education in the territory, shed some light on the Cancryn situation Tuesday. (See "Cancryn Students, Parents and Faculty Stage Walkout").
In the pink, paint-chipped hallway are two other murals: one depicts a lightbulb, "A Brighter Future," and the other, a book, "Open a Book; See the World."
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