Stakeholders come together, excited to make a difference
February 10, 2012
At today’s education task force meeting, stakeholders put it all on the table:
1.      Public school principals are eager to implement reforms that will enhance teaching and learning, and rebuilding their schools,
2.      Board members are working toward updating curriculum standards,
3.      Senators are anxious to contribute to education changes that will lead to better facilities, use of green technology, ADA compliance, and vertical articulation from preparation programs to schools into community classrooms for all students, and increased collaboration at all levels,
4.      The director of Public Works is strengthening aspects of  school bus transporation,
5.      The Governor’s financial team is aggressively pursuing financial avenues to fund the reforms and capital improvements the stakeholders want to do
The task force members first tackled the issue of returning Untalan Middle School back to its Barrigada campus by school year 2013-2014. It was decided that the first action item is to conduct a structural assessment of the school, then to move forward from there. Principal Jim Reyes was assigned to lead the Untalan Return Action Team.
Much of the meeting was spent discussing reforms to the overall problems in education and how all stakeholders can overcome these problems. Task force chairman Vince Leon Guerrero continuously focused the discussion on one point:
“We know from the test scores and the graduation rate that improvements need to be made, despite the very best efforts of educators and administrators,” Leon Guerrero said. “What we have to focus on is finding what has been holding the reforms back, removing those roadblocks, and truly changing the system so that student achievement becomes globally competitive and a reality for all students.”
Stakeholders were encouraged to think of solutions without being limited to existing roadblocks.
“If we’re going to make a difference, I want to see everything on the table, even the ideas that have been unspeakable in the past,” Governor Calvo said. “We need to consider everything from the facilities to the curriculum. Everything ties in together. I want this group to look at the size of classrooms, replacing textbooks with iPads, the amount of time students spend in school, the type of training needed, the type of community partnerships needed, everything.”
The task force assigned action teams to find solutions:
1.      Untalan’s return to its campus: Jim Reyes, team leader
2.      Facility repairs, renovations, and new schools: Joe S. San Agustin, team leader
3.      School learning and collateral equipment needs: Rosie Tainatongo, team leader
4.      School and system-wide reforms: Troy Torres, team leader
5.      Technology and security: Ed Cruz, team leader
6.      Green technology: Sen. Dennis Rodriguez & Barry Mead, team leaders
7.      Transportation of students: Department of Public Works, facilitators
8.      Community schools: Mayor Melissa Savares, team leader
9.      Financing solutions: Henry Taitano & Karl Pangelinan, team leaders
Sen. Aline Yamashita, Rosie Tainatongo, Barry Mead and Benavente Middle School principal Dexter Fullo immediately volunteered to join the school and system-wide reform team. Fullo said every reform should have, at its heart, the principle that students are at the center of every decision.
Fullo, Untalan Middle principal Jim Reyes, and Price Elementary principal Lisa Cooper-Nurse expressed their challenge with current restrictions that inhibit their ability to gather teachers and have them communicate and collaborate with each other. This communication, they said, is essential to ensuring students, especially those falling through the cracks, are learning and achieving. Time constraints borne from the expired union contract severely restricted their ability to manage in this way. They depend on teachers voluntarily doing what’s right, outside of their union-contract duty hours.
Fullo also raised the issue of tying teacher evaluation to student results. Sen. Yamashita chimed in and said such a reform could be effective as long as the performance standards are clear and teachers and principals are provided training in fair and valid measurement processes.
DPW director Joanne Brown, a product of the public schools herself, said the system needs to adopt standards, monitor deliverables, and hold the right people accountable for student achievement. She also said the task force needs to look at data, if it exists, that shows the number of students graduating, where they went, and what they’re doing now.
Reyes was excited about the point and said one of the reforms needs to be a vertical articulation policy that mandates teachers and principals to talk to each other from one grade to the next, and from elementary to middle to high school, then college.
Sen. Mana Silva Taijeron, mother of three public school children, agreed and expressed concern that her daughter will be leaving B.P. Carbullido Elementary (it is a DI school), and entering Untalan Middle without having test-taking skills. She said assessments and articulation are critical.
Board members Mead, Tainatongo, San Agustin and Ron Ayuyu reported that the board will be considering the adoption of the Common Core State Standards, nationally-adopted benchmarks for success. The board also will be addressing school attendance areas and course issues in an upcoming meeting.
Finance solutions
Guam Economic Development Authority Administrator Karl Pangelinan outlined financing solutions to renovate or rebuild existing schools, and to build new ones. The task force agreed to review capital improvement needs once reforms are identified. These reforms could impact the types of facilities and equipment the schools need, and where schools should be. In the mean time, GEDA and Governor’s advisor for social and economic affairs Henry Taitano are looking at the following financing options that have no impact on the government’s debt limit:
1.      The lease-lease back option, which Speaker Judi Won Pat also expressed in her weekly address today
2.      New market tax credits
3.      Mixed-use financing
4.      Energy efficiency financing
Next on the agenda
The task force will come back to the table with recommendations on Thursday, February 23, at 3:30 p.m. The meeting will take place at the Cabinet Conference Room, Bordallo Governor’s Complex.
The action teams will be busy so they can prepare recommendations for the full task force:
1.      The school and system-wide reform team will meet Monday, February 13, at 3:30 p.m. in the Cabinet Conference Room. All school leaders and teachers are welcome. Brainstorming of reform issues will be facilitated during this meeting.
2.      Pangelinan will announce his first meeting of the financing solutions team.
3.      Mayor Savares is working with Fullo, and will be engaging with other mayors on the community schools team
4.      The leaders of other teams will be announcing their next steps shortly
Contact Troy Torres at 475-9304 or 486-8887 for more information.

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