PACIFIC ISLANDS REPORT
Pacific Islands Development Program/East-West Center
POLITICS TRUMPS PERFORMANCE IN GUAM SCHOOL SYSTEM
Pacific Daily News
HAGATNA, Guam (June 15) – Guam Governor Felix Camacho, interim Superintendent Luis Reyes, and the Guam Education Policy Board are hoping that a show of unity will be enough to allay U.S. Department of Education concerns of instability in leadership at the Guam Public School System. They are planning a conference call with federal education officials to explain the current situation.
In a recent letter to the Government of Guam, Hudson La Force, senior counselor to the secretary of education, wrote that U.S. Department of Education had concerns over "indicators of instability in the management of public education in Guam, including actions taken by the Guam Education Policy Board over the last eight months that have adversely affected the allowable and effective use of federal education funds by Guam Public School System."
The bottom line: The federal education department is concerned that local politics have been interfering with programs funded by federal money, and will continue to do so unless school system leadership is stable and allowed to do the job properly.
The termination of former Superintendent Juan Flores is the primary example here. Under his leadership, students' scores on standardized tests increased for two straight years. Retirement contributions were made in full and on time. He pushed for full implementation of Direct Instruction, fighting the school board to continue the second reading block part of the program. Flores also led the school system's efforts to meet the requirements of the Adequate Public Education Act, regularly updating the public with progress reports.
But despite these achievements, the school board chose not to renew his contract and then to terminate him. Politics played a big role in that decision – Flores stood up to the board when it tried to get involved with operations instead of its job of determining school policy.
The message that sent to federal education authorities is that politics trumps performance. U.S. Department of Education wants to ensure that its money is used for the intended purpose, and that nothing gets in the way of that – which is exactly what happens when petty politics is imbedded in the system.
If the governor and local education officials want to ease the minds of federal education officials and this community, they need to do more than make a show of unity. They must make a commitment to removing politics from Guam Public School System and focusing solely on ensuring that every aspect of the school system works in the best interests of the students.
June 15, 2006
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