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Spampinato Offers Chamber Her Vision for Education

Sept. 12, 2007 — About 100 people attended the luncheon meeting of the St. Croix Chamber of Commerce Wednesday to hear what guest speaker Lynn Spampinato, acting education commissioner, had to say about the hot topic of education in the Virgin Islands.
Chamber President Omer ErSelcuk opened the meeting at Tutto Bene in Christiansted with comments on the educated workforce needed for the business sector.
"Business people work hard," he said. "We need to count on a future with the education system providing us with that solid workforce."
Spampinato has the proven skills to lead the territory into the future, ErSelcuk said.
The acting commissioner has spent 31 years in education in urban America, beginning in the field of special education, Spampinato told the chamber audience. She has worked to give children in poverty a voice, and her life is about achieving that goal, she said.
In 1991 she got hired to do her first "turnaround" job. It was a tough job, but she loved it, Spampinato said. Schools can and must change, because the future is at stake, she said. Other countries are surpassing the United States, particularly at the high school level, she said. Educators must set the pace for change.
"We want our children to go to schools of choice, not last resort," Spampinato said.
Career and technical education is needed, and so is the knowledge of reading and writing, she said. She emphasized keeping track of students every six weeks and seeing who needs help.
The first part of her plan for the Virgin Islands is being implemented, with a full audit of everything from maintenance to finance, she said. Spampinato hopes the audits will be completed by the beginning of December. After the audits, she intends to draft plans, take them out to the community and find out if they miss anything the community needs.
Spampinato went to Washington, D.C., last week to try to salvage some of the federal education money the territory stands to lose if it is not earmarked for specific use by the end of this month. An audience member at Wednesday's meeting her about the $4.4 million.
"This is bad," Spampinato replied. "I kid you not, we are so far beyond the edge we can't re-write the plan. You write a plan and fund it with allocated funds. Guidance is needed in regulations on allocation."
On a positive note, Spampinato said she is processing allocations for a half million dollars to be spent on books. The acting commissioner said she would like to structure plans to involve families more, with incentives and committees for those who want to get involved, including alumni.
Ten members of the St. Croix Women's Initiative came to the luncheon to show their support for Spampinato.
"I would like to make a commitment to pitch in and help in the schools," Ann E. Abramson said.
Spampinato said in closing, "This isn't going to be easy, but no one deserves more than our children. We have to come together for the children,"
After Wednesday's meeting some of those in attendance expressed their support for the acting commissioner.
"Spampinato is definitely on the right track with audits," said Therese Donarski, who spends time in schools as the Humane Education Coordinator for the St. Croix Animal Shelter.
Added chamber member Sally Schantz, "I hope she gets voted in by the Senate. We need change and improvement. She is listening."
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