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Saturday, May 28, 2022
HomeCommentaryOpen forumV.I. Board of Education Member Moorhead Offers A Perspective

V.I. Board of Education Member Moorhead Offers A Perspective

Dear Source:
Virgin Islands Code, Title 17 Education, Chapter 3. Virgin Islands Board of Education, Section 24: School management accountability, (3)(d) legislates the Board of Education shall submit an annual report to the Governor and Legislature June 15 each year.
To prepare for the report, an inspection, assessment and evaluation of the public school facilities, school administrators and school guidance divisions are done by the members of VIBE with the assistance of staff. There is no consultation with the Commissioner of Education nor the department as mandated by the VIC. The inspections are conducted without the benefit of reports from DPNR, DPW, OSHA, DH Environmental Health Division, or Fire; reports have not been available. The inspections are performed with the consultation of the administrators of the facilities. Having participated in numerous school visits and parent organizations’ meetings, I offer my perspective.
Schools in the St. Croix district lack proper athletic facilities for students to develop their skills. There is a need in the district for at least one professional facility for each area of a prominent sport; the students are excelling in various sports in spite of the deficiencies and lack of opportunities.
The Legislation that put a maintenance person in each school made a positive impact on school facilities. The regular maintenance has mitigated the need for major repairs, but the physical and technical requirements of 21st century school facilities continue to challenge our 20th century infrastructures.
The Smarter Balance test is only online. Many schools in STX have one Computer Lab room and a Special Education resource lab serving 300-550 students. The electrical load of the school facilities need to be increased to accommodate more computer connectivity. Mostly, the solution is to sacrifice the regular computer classes to permit the Smarter Balance testing. In addition to the shortage of computer labs, the Internet connectivity is not convenient nor dependable in St. Croix public schools. Schools begin operation before 8 a.m., but internet connectivity is not available before 8 a.m. If our government can boast of high speed fiber optic, why can’t our public schools boast of dependable Internet connection?
The Emergency Plans in our public schools are to be updated annually. Many of the St. Croix Emergency School Plans are outdated and/or incomplete. Parents must ensure that all emergency drills are fully executed annually.
School security is a great concern on the mainland. It must become equally in the Territory. Our schools must better manage the safety and security of the facility. Our schools must practice proper admittance security procedures, and not allow students to participate in community activities in violation of the documentation and authorization procedures.
Some schools have concerns that can be addressed momentarily. The Ricardo Richards Elementary School playground is adjacent to Melvin Evans two-lane highway. A regular, chain-link fence separates the play area from the highway lanes. There should be a border of protection in between to prevent any penetration of the fence. Additionally, the trailers that were placed at the school years ago, as temporary classrooms, are creating safety/health concerns and complaints.
The Lew Muckle Elementary School facility is a historic site. While significantly important, the designation causes the maintenance and repairs of the facility to be difficult and costly. A Memorandum of agreement (MOU) between DOE and the DPNR historic preservation officials could mitigate the challenges and control the cost of the historic facility serving as a school.
The Arthur A. Richards Jr. High School needs help to fight termites. Subterranean Termites are attacking the school library. Pesticide professionals and researchers encourage school systems to develop an Integrated Pest Management Plan for the system. The plan is a control process to protect children because they are very vulnerable to pesticides, and schools must be cautious with any usage of pesticides. Despite challenges, Arthur Richards Jr. H.S. Agriculture class has made great strides and would benefit from a partnership with DOA and/or UVI Extension Services.
With the increase of socioeconomic challenges in St. Croix households, more individual student counseling and guidance are in great need, but lacking. Providing services to children early, prevents behavioral consequences later. Our public school students need additional counseling/psychologist personnel at school facilities.
The St. Croix public high schools have five academic counselors each. The freshman grade being the largest, two counselors are assigned to that grade level. Preparing for graduation and beyond, senior students have many additional assignments. The support and assistance that the seniors need are overwhelming for one counselor. Sometimes, administrators assist the twelve grade counselor prepare letters of references and other documents, but the high schools really need more than one counselor to work with graduating seniors.
Our students are struggling. They are doing the best they can with what they have. They do not receive the support they need to identify and address their academic, emotional, physical, psychological and social needs when it occurs. There must be a time limit specific to identify, refer, test and evaluate students who are at-risk. Afterschool programs are an integral need in the territory. The programs keep children safe, inspire learning, and support working families. When the education system doesn’t address the needs of the children, those children may become the offenders of tomorrow.
United we must change the school to prison pipeline, to a cradle to career pipeline. DOE and VIBE must do their part to break the gun violence culture. Parents and alumni must become active in Parent Organizations of the public schools and lobby for quality education that addresses the needs of our students.
Investment in quality education produces the best return. Thank you for the opportunity to serve.
Mary L. Moorhead Member of VIBE St. Croix 5/16/1
 

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