Virgin Islands Code Title 17, Education, Chapter 3. Virgin Islands Board of Education, Section 24, School management accountability (3)(d) legislates that the Board of Education (VIBE) shall submit an annual report to the Legislature and Governor no later than June 15 each year.
To prepare for the report, an inspection, assessment and evaluation of public school facilities, school administrators and school guidance divisions in the district of St. Croix are made by members of VIBE after notification to the Office of the Superintendents, but there is no consultation with the Commissioner of Education nor with the department as mandated by VIC. The inspections are conducted without the benefit of reports from DPNR, DPW, OSHA, DH-Environmental Health Division or Fire, reports are not available. The inspections, assessments and evaluations of the facilities are performed with the consultation of the administrators at the facilities.
St. Croix public school facilities are very old and in dire states. The lack of maintenance over the years has brought some facilities to a point that demolition is more economical and practical than rehabilitation.
When the V.I. Department of Education (DOE) hires a maintenance person at each school, it will have a significant impact on the facilities.
The physical and technical requirements of a 21st century school facility do not work with a 20th century infrastructure. The Smarter Balance test is online only. Most schools in St. Croix have one Computer Lab room with a Special Education resource lab for 300-600 students. With the limited number of computers, computer lessons will be sacrificed for the Smarter Balance testing. Internet connectivity is not dependable in St. Croix public schools. Isn’t it ironic that EDA solicit businesses to the VI boasting of the speed of Internet connection, while our public schools struggle to get and maintain an Internet connection?
Safety in school is a concern on the mainland. It should be a concern in the Territory too. Emergency Plans in public schools are required to be updated annually. Many of the St. Croix Emergency School Plans are outdated and incomplete. Parents must demand that each quarter a different emergency drill is executed in the schools.
At a Pesticide Conference held recently, the experts encouraged schools to develop an Integrated Pest Management Plan. The plan is an important pest control process because children are vulnerable to pesticides and schools must be cautious with any usage.
The playground of Ricardo Richards Elementary School, located adjacent to a two lane highway, is hazardous. An ordinary chain-link fence separates the play area and the highway lanes. Trailers that were placed at the school many years ago as temporary classrooms are still being used despite safety issues.
The Lew Muckle Elementary School facility is a historic site. The historic designation makes maintenance, repairs and rehabilitation of the facility difficult and expensive. There should be a working agreement between DOE and DPNR historic preservation officials to facilitate the maintenance of a historic facility serving as a school.
The Arthur A. Richards Jr. High School needs help to address a problem with termites. Subterranean Termites are attacking the school library and its inventory. Because of limited space, the Counselors moved their office to accommodate group counseling. The school’s Agriculture program is rebounding.
With the increase of socioeconomic challenges in St. Croix households, individual student counseling and guidance are needed more, but not readily available. Providing services to children early prevents behavioral consequences later.
St. Croix’s two public high schools have five counselors each. The freshman grade being the largest, there are two counselors assigned to that grade level. In preparation for graduation, there are many assignments for seniors. Offering support and assistance to the graduating seniors is overwhelming for one counselor. The administrator who supervises the senior grade level assists the twelfth grade counselor with preparation of letters of references and other documents. The high schools need more than one counselor to adequately assist graduating seniors.
Many students are struggling in the St. Croix district. The children are not receiving support to identify and address their needs timely: academic, emotional, physical, psychological and social needs. There must be a time limit on how long it should take to identified, refer, test and evaluate a student. When the system doesn’t address the needs of the children; those children may become the offenders of tomorrow.
Parents and alumni must become active in the Parent Organizations of the public schools and lobby to support the children. Because of public reports, the Board denied me membership to some Standing Committees. Notwithstanding, I attend all the Board Committee meetings, and I participate. I thank the voters of St. Croix for the opportunity to serve.
Investment in quality education produces the best returns.
Mary L. Moorhead, VIBE – St. Croix District
VIBE Member Moorhead Gives Her Perspective on 2015 Report
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