March 8, 2005 It seems like St. John resident Oswin Sewer is everywhere. Attend a community meeting and you'll see Sewer somewhere in the room. Hop on the ferry to St. Thomas and there's Sewer heading off to an appointment. Make a dash through Cruz Bay, and you'll probably run into Sewer on his way to pick up the mail.
Since retiring in 2000 from Julius E. Sprauve School after 30 years of teaching, he's signed on to serve on many boards and commissions that keep him nearly as busy as he was when he taught school.
"When you're retired, people think you have all the time in the world," he said, laughing.
Sewer was elected in November 2004 to a four-year term on the Board of Education. He also serves on the Humanities Council, the Lottery Commission, and is an AARP past president. Additionally, he's the vice-president of the V.I. African American Lutheran Association, sings in the Nazareth Lutheran Church choir and serves on the Safety Zone board.
And he's into photography, dances with the Cultural Dancers and helps with Love City Pan Dragons activities.
As if this wasn't enough to keep him busy, he holds a job in security at Gallow's Point Resort.
He also keeps busy with his family. He and wife, Laurel Hewitt-Sewer, have two boys, Oswin Jr., 19, a student at the University of Central Florida, and Zaid, 14, who attends Bertha C. Boschulte Junior High School. He also has two other children, Baltimore resident Kimberly Sewer, 35, and Osric-Ali Sewer, 28 who lives in North Carolina.
He was born 57 years ago on St. John at the clinic. The building, torn down decades ago, was located in Cruz Bay Park where the bandstand now sits.
Sewer started elementary school at the long-closed Bethany School. When the school that became Julius E. Sprauve School opened, he attended school there, sharing eighth-grade salutatorian honors with the late Winston Wells.
After graduating from Charlotte Amalie High School in 1965, he went off to Morgan State in Baltimore. He graduated in 1970 with a bachelor's degree in sociology and anthropology. In 1989, he received his master's degree in teaching and learning from the University of Miami in Coral Gables.
Sewer returned home from Morgan State hoping to get a job at what was then called the Social Welfare Department. When that job didn't materialize, he was tapped in April 1970 to teach at what was then called Wayne Aspinall School, now Addelita Cancryn Junior High School. He transferred the next year to Julius E. Sprauve School, where he stayed for the rest of his teaching career.
He sees vast changes between the time he started teaching and the time he retired. He said parents and teachers cooperated for the good of the children, and parents often asked how they could help.
"A lot of that doesn't happen anymore," he said.
He suggested that part of the problem may come from parents who had it tough as children. Instead of following suit, they pamper their children. This definitely hampers their education, he says.
He's seen vast changes in St. John life too. He said the people moving to St. John now are far different than those who came decades earlier. Sewer said that years ago black and white residents mixed and mingled at places like the Hilltop. He said that today, there are many more options for socializing, so such interaction just doesn't happen.
He sees problems in the St. John job market. Most small tourism-oriented businesses don't offer steady jobs with benefits. Instead, they often hire people who come just for the season. They also offer no opportunities for promotion.
Sewer said he's worried about what will happen to St. John because most natives are priced out of the land market.
"You'll have rich people and the poor people who work for them," he predicted.
Sewer isn't going anywhere, though.
"This is the place where I feel most comfortable. This will always be home," he said.
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