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Guy Benjamin Parents Protest for Teacher

June 4, 2009 — A long-simmering issue at Guy Benjamin School in Coral Bay spilled over to the street Thursday when parents and others protested the Education Department's failure to rehire teacher Jane Roskin on a permanent basis.
"Fairy land has a plan to bring Miss Roskin to our land," the half-dozen protestors chanted.
By the time the four-hour protest ended, a total of about 15 people came and went in front of the school waving placards and encouraging vehicles to honk in support.
Parents also kept their children home from school. Principal Dionne Wells said that only 20 of the school's 102 students showed up for class.
Education Department spokesman Juel Anderson referred questions to Superintendent Jeannette Smith-Barry. She did not return a phone call requesting comment.
Roskin was reluctant to comment but said she really appreciates the support of the PTO and the parents.
"I hope to be teaching first grade in the fall," Roskin said.
Two of those absent students, Seala, 7, and Sierra, 6, were out in front of the school with their parents, Donna and Ernest Matthias.
"We've got to put politics aside and move forward," Ernest Matthias said.
The matter began in November 2004 when then-Principal Margaret Bowers told Roskin, then the school's special education teacher, that she had to start work four days later at Addelita Cancryn Junior High School on St. Thomas. Roskin, who lives in the hills above Coral Bay, said it would take her nearly six hours a day to get back and forth from Coral Bay to Addelita Cancryn.
Roskin took sick over the matter, and never went to work at Addelita Cancryn. She subsequently retired from the Education Department and from 2005 to 2007 taught first grade at the Gifft Hill School, a private school on St. John.
In 2007 she returned to Guy Benjamin as a reading coach, but is paid out of the school principal's discretionary fund and from donations, Wells said.
"She's getting paid less and has no benefits," Guy Benjamin Parent Teacher Organization President Lois Simmons said.
Former Guy Benjamin Principal Gwen Hyndman had nothing but praise for Roskin, who taught at the school for 17 years before she was told to transfer. She said Roskin was an exceptional teacher.
"You can't ask for a better, more caring teacher," Hyndman said.
Hyndman pinned the problem on racism because Roskin is white.
Donna Matthias said she was told by Commissioner LaVerne Terry that if Roskin meets qualifications and applies like anyone else for a post, she would be considered once transfer requests were dealt with.
"I told her no one wants to transfer to Guy Benjamin," Donna Matthias said, referring to the school's remote location in Coral Bay and the difficulty in getting there for St. Thomas-based teachers.
Donna Matthias continued that the children, teachers, principal and parents all want Roskin at the school on a permanent basis.
"It's a no-brainer," she said.

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