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Cancryn Getting Some Attention After Walkouts

Jan. 25, 2005 – The Addelita Cancryn Junior High School campus has undergone a dramatic change since Thursday. It is clean and getting cleaner. Bush has been cut back, hallway walls and ceilings are being washed and painted, and restrooms are working and getting a fresh coat of paint to boot.
This has all happened almost overnight, but not before a job action was staged last week by fed up faculty and students. The protests culminated in a meeting Thursday between Yvonne Pilgrim, Cancryn's principal, school faculty, parents and government officials, including Lt. Gov. Vargrave Richards and Education Commissioner Noreen Michael. At the close of the frequently heated meeting, Michael said she would have a statement Monday in response to grievances aired during the session. (See "Parents, Teachers Demand Action at Cancryn").
Michael's statement arrived Monday, but Pilgrim said, through her office, she didn't want to comment until those concerned had an opportunity to view the document. Leba Ola-Niyi, an art teacher and union representative, made a similar statement Monday.
The Education Department released the document to the media Tuesday. It fails to answer all the questions of parents and faculty, and does not contain a complete timeline.
Still, Ola-Niyi said Tuesday, it does answer some questions. "I am glad to see progress is being made," he said, "but I won't be fully satisfied until all we asked for is achieved."
The Education Department said a "detailed matrix on long term issues will be forwarded to principal Pilgrim no later than Friday." Asked if the "long term solution" deals with moving the school to another location, Ola-Niyi said he had no idea.
Whether to move the school has remained undecided for years. In last week's meeting, Richards said he could not give a definite answer to that question.
However, two issues were resolved last week. A fence facing Veteran's Drive was repaired, and two policemen have been posted at the school in the morning and afternoon to act as crossing guards until permanent guards are found. There is no firm date yet for repairing the overpass that has been out of commission since October 2003.
Louis Hughes, Education Department director of maintenance, was on the campus Tuesday.
He said a low water pressure problem mentioned at last week's meeting had nothing to do with the Water and Power Authority. "We have worked on the pipes and we have full pressure in all the bathrooms now," he said.
Hughes proceeded to show the newly-painted bathrooms on the east side of the campus. He also demonstrated the running water and pointed out that students are not consistently clean when using the facilities.
Hughes would not say that the clean-up effort was unusual. "It's just routine maintenance," he said. Nevertheless the halls were filled with workmen on ladders washing down and cleaning the walls and ceilings. "We're doing something about the pigeons, too, cleaning up their mess," Hughes said, indicating a stretch of power lines covered with pigeons. "They're a problem."
Hughes also said windows have been replaced and an exterminator was on campus Monday to begin dealing with the school's rat population, an item mentioned at last week's meeting. "It's all under control, it's easy, a dream. It's not a headache," he said.
In her statement, Michael addressed several other concerns expressed at last week's meetings.
She said Innovative Telephone is restoring the phone system as well as the public address system, which was ruined in November's fire. Pilgrim made a decision to reduce the number of lines the school uses. Work is ongoing until completion.
Personnel is another concern. Michael said the school needs a librarian, but there are no applicants. She said there is one vacancy for a special education paraprofessional, and that the Education Department is awaiting revision of their budget in order to hire someone who has already been selected. The school has three custodial workers and there are no vacancies in this area, Michael said. She said no other vacancies exist at the school, although there may be future needs.
Meantime, the Board of Education has asked Michael to supply all contractual details for reconstruction of the classrooms destroyed in the November fire. Judy Gomez, Board of Education chairwoman, noted in a release that the commissioner last week stated, "the contractor was poised to begin work at the school." Gomez said the board wants to "do what it can to make sure what's promised is delivered." She said particular attention will be given to Cancryn when the board resumes its regular site visits.
Tregneza A. Roach, Board of Education executive director, was present at last Thursday's meeting in the Cancryn library. Pilgrim did not return calls for comment Tuesday.
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