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Board of Education Touches on Efficiency, English Proficiency, Spampinato

Sept. 8, 2007 — The Board of Education held its first meeting at its new home in Sunny Isle Professional Building Saturday where it signaled a new emphasis on efficiency and gave a vote of confidence to acting Education Commissioner Lynn Spampinato.
In the meeting room above the First Bank Mortgage Company, Executive Director Carol O'Bryan Henneman projected a summary of correspondence on the wall and said it would be a waste of paper to print out a copy of all the correspondence for board members. She noted that not all branches of government had adopted this electronic efficiency.
Henneman pointed out that she just received a copy of the Education Reform Act, proposed by Sen. Liston Davis, on Friday afternoon and did not have time to make copies for all board members. She added, "I wish they would e-mail these things — it would make it so much easier."
Lauren Larsen, deputy commissioner for curriculum and instruction, reported that the English Language Acquisition Program envisions that all limited English proficient students attain full proficiency and meet the same challenging academic content standards as all other students.
Larsen said the school district has tried to hire ESL teachers to no avail. St. Croix has 24 bilingual teachers, Larsen said. "There is a major problem with the influx of children from the Dominican Republic who are over-aged and under-schooled," he noted.
Larsen added that in spite of obstacles they have seen some progress. He said schools are mandated to follow past federal funding based on the number of children in need. Larsen said he is hoping for continued funding, and collaboration with the University of the Virgin Islands.
Elsa Ramirez, territorial program manager for English language programs, accompanied Larsen.
Debra Smith-Wattlington, board president, asked Larsen to share correspondence and follow up with the board.
Henneman said the board of education was the only government agency to get more funding, going from $1.6 million to $2.6 million. Most of the additional money will be used to enhance territorial scholarship offerings in nursing and education and to support professional certification.
Recent scholarships included 10 each for nursing and education. The board announced it had also received more than $26,000 from economic development companies for scholarships.
The board approved staff participation in professional development and technology improvements.
The board briefly discussed problems with NOPA (Notification of Personel Action) concerning teachers getting raises in a timely fashion.
It was determined that the board needed to meet with the Vocational Board and set up a meeting in the near future.
The board touched on the fact that the schools stand to lose $4.4 million in federal funds if they are not allocated by September 30. Acting Commissioner Lynn Spampinato is currently in Washington D.C. trying to salvage the funds. Board member Terrence Joseph said, "I hope we get a positive report on utilizing the federal funds."
A motion was made by Joseph to approve 12 individuals from St. Croix and 12 from the St Thomas/St. John district for certification since they have passed the PRAXIS exam.
The board also gave consideration of attendance to conferences in Philadelphia, Chicago and Atlanta and approved them with each board member to attend at least one.
Nandi Sekou spoke about the CUBE (Council on Urban School Board Education) conference she will be attending. Twelve local schools will be participating in a national survey gathering data and feedback from parents on their schools. CUBE offers technical support.
In executive session, the board approved policy rules, regulations and guidelines on scholarship notification and verification. Recipients will be given until October 30 to reply or others may apply.
Board member Shawn Gibson made a motion for the board to become a member of the St. Croix Chamber of Commerce. It was approved with a vote of six to one. Membership is $75 to join the chamber.
Joseph said, "After having a very fruitful meeting with commissioner designee Spampinato I make a motion to give a vote of confidence to Spampinato when she goes before the senate for hiring."
He said, "She is very knowledgeable and experienced, with a vast array of resources."
The motion was passed six to three. Five committee reports also were given during the meeting.
Also in attendance were Oswin Sewer Sr., Judy Gomez and Nereida Rivera-O’Reilly.
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