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Parents Plan Actions to Spotlight Education Problems

March 2, 2005 — Parents of St. Croix high school students are planning a special surprise at Gov. Charles W. Turnbull's 70th birthday party scheduled for Saturday – a protest march. The action was decided at an emergency meeting of the St. Croix Central High School Parent Teacher Student Association, when close to 150 parents and supporters voted overwhelmingly to take to the streets and protest the ongoing problems at the high school, which they say could prevent Middle States Association of Colleges and Schools from granting accreditation to the school.
With the clock ticking on Middle States visit to St. Croix Central High school on March 8, a glaring spotlight has been focused on the inadequacies and shortcomings of the big islands' 30-year-old secondary school. On the top of the list of problems is the renovation of the school's parking lot which has been cited by Middle States as unsafe. The science labs need renovation and textbooks are outdated and in short supply. One parent gave an example of 29 students in a class sharing nine textbooks.
"Maybe they [Middle States] will reconsider not granting accreditation if they see the parents are protesting," said one parent. The protest is scheduled to take place at Gertrude's Restaurant, the site of the governor's birthday party.
Eunice Edwards, Central High PTSA president said Tuesday evening's meeting was prompted by information revealed at recent meetings of the Senate Committee on Education. At the regular PTSA monthly meeting on Sunday, with about 30 parents in attendance, Edwards said the decision was made to call an emergency meeting.
Parents said a maintenance list for the school had lain dormant for years despite their protests and efforts to improve the school. "We have worked day and night, weekends and holidays," Debbie Christopher, PTSA public relations officer, said."Everything is in the hands of the Department of Education and they are not working with us."
Hovensa employee and member of the CHS accreditation team, Samuel J. Baptiste explained the oil refinery's part in attempting to assist CHS to renovate the parking area. Baptiste said several companies pooled their resources and presented the Department of Education with a plan. The companies would complete the work as a contribution to the school. Baptiste said the plans were turned over to Noreen Michael, Education commissioner, who then consulted Edmund Blaze, chief operating officer of Caribbean Professional Consultants Inc., the company who holds the contract to complete renovations in the territories schools. CPC said some changes needed to be made to the plans, but according to Baptiste, no further action was taken on the proposal. "Last week Terrence Joseph, superintendent of schools called and told me the contractor could not do anything until May," Baptiste said, adding that he was asked by Joseph if he could get the original companies together again to begin the renovations.
"CHS has always been last on the list," Christopher said as she addressed the crowd. Christopher said that at a recent meeting of the Senate Committee on Education Louis Hughes, territorial director of plant operations, while having a list of maintenance needs for St. Thomas school available for senators, said the list for St. Croix schools was "in his head." Christopher also complained she was only given five minutes to speak at the Senate hearing. "I was totally rushed along, nothing was accomplished. They said they were going to work on the St. Thomas schools before they came to St. Croix. This is borderline criminal."
Vowing "not to be sidelined by promises" parents also announced they have retained attorney Lee Rohn to bring a class action suit against the government to advance the issues of accreditation in the schools. "Under the No Child left behind Act this issue can be taken to federal court," CHS parent Anne Golden said.
"It's going to take your involvement to make this happen," Edwards told the parents." We've got to take this situation in hand, we need to show our disgust to the government. The only way we are going to get action is to take action."

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