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Thursday, February 2, 2023
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Board of Education HQ Needs Emergency Fixes to Electrical System

The electrical system at the V.I. Board of Education’s St. Thomas headquarters is failing, with some wires burning out and electrical circuit boxes overloaded, the board learned Thursday in an emergency meeting.

When employees arrived for work Tuesday morning at the building on Droningens Gade, they couldn’t turn the lights on. Staff members summoned a technician from the V.I. Department of Public Works, and later called in an electrical contractor to assess the problem, according to Laurie Isaac, the board’s director of business and finance.

The contractor determined that the residentially-designed building, which was already slated for renovation, had wiring that wasn’t up to the power demands of an office. Wiring had not only started to burn out but circuit boxes were overloaded.

To alleviate the overload, the board dismissed its summertime workers and put regular employees on an alternating schedule, using the board’s conference room for regular office activities.

“The electrical contractor suggested that we vacate the premises,” board Vice Chair Keith Richards said.

The board sought guidance from renovation facilitator Brian Turnbull, whom the board engaged to write the statement of work for the renovation.

Turnbull advised the board that there would possibly be some overlap between the temporary electrical fix and the planned renovation. The building will have to be reassessed before renovations commence, but Turnbull said that some of the emergency work could translate into the permanent renovation.

The board approved expenditure for emergency repairs to allow staff to continue working and directed staff to expedite the search for alternative office space. In addition the board directed staff to begin the procurement process with the V.I. Department of Property and Procurement.

The board needs about 2,500 to 3,000 square feet of built-out office space and is considering Nisky Center and the former Blockbuster Video Space, among other places, according to Isaac.
Funding for the rental space will have to come through supplemental monies from the V.I. Office of Management and Budget, Isaac said.

Renovation funds in the amount $133,000 are in the budget, but must be spent or encumbered by the end of September in order for the board not to lose the money.

The board also resolved to re-evaluate selection criteria for $50,000 in scholarship money received from the Governor for students in cardiovascular technology. The proposed scholarship will be divided into two $25,000 scholarships, one for the St. Thomas-St. John district and the other for St. Croix. The board could not come to agreement on how to select candidates who would be likely to return to the Virgin Islands to work in public health. The board resolved to review the scholarship selection criteria at its July meeting.

Finally the board went over recent graduations, in which board members attending some of the celebrations were not recognized, although it is the board itself that confers the diplomas on the graduates, board members observed.

Not sure whether that was intentional, the board resolved to send a letter to the schools discussing protocol at graduations.
Discussing the practice at Charlotte Amalie High School graduation of naming special education students prior to announcing graduates who are in the standard high school program, some board members expressed outrage.

“This is totally discriminatory and illegal,” board member Arah Lockhart said. Advising review, board member Deborah Smith-Wattlington noted that the special education students are not issued a standard diploma.

“They are not being issued diplomas,” board member Deborah Smith said. “They are being issued certificate. Lets look at our rules and policies.”

The board also approved a motion to recognize graduates who are scholarship and grant recipients with congratulatory remarks in the media.

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