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By Fili Sagapolutele

PAGO PAGO, American Samoa (April 13, 1999 - Samoa News)---Major changes in American Samoa’s public educational system are being planned by the new Director of the Department of Education (DOE). These changes may satisfy an issue -- overcrowded classrooms -- that has been raised in the Fono (legislature) many times.

Although he has only been the DOE Director for a little over two weeks, Dr. Sili Sataua said he will try and get the job done before the dawning of the new millennium, which is a goal of education leaders throughout the United States.

Called the ASG Educational Improvement Plan, Sataua has emphasized four major areas of change under the plan that he said should be completed by July of this year and implemented at the opening of the next school year.

The improvements and changes to the educational system were outlined by Sataua during a meeting with educators last week at the Rainmaker Hotel.

However, the most important improvement Sataua said he has undertaken is the reduction of classroom sizes, which is also a goal in all states and territories. This is also an initiative ordered by President Clinton as part of the United States’ goals for the year 2000.

The four major target areas of improvement include:

To make this improvement become a reality, Sataua said yesterday that the local DOE will receive a federal grant of $434,896 to fund 40 teaching positions for the coming school year.

If divided equally, with none of the grant money diverted to other uses, it will pay each of the 40 teachers an annual salary of $10,872.

According to Sataua, who is the Governor’s former chief of staff, this grant is made available to all states and territories to reduce class sizes in overcrowded schools. It is part of President Clinton’s school reform program.

"This grant is a timely innovation as the department is currently reviewing its Comprehensive Educational Improvement Plan for its implementation this coming Fall Semester," said Sataua.

The focus of the Plan is aimed at improving achievement levels of all students in the public school system. "This effectively raises student achievement levels, as over-crowded classrooms of more than 30 students must be reduced to 25 students per teacher," said the long-time educator.

And "the 40 additional teaching positions will be assigned to grades 1 to 3, which will be the focus of the Educational Improvement Plan," said Sataua. It is not clear from where the new teachers are to come since DOE has trouble filling its current teaching positions each year.

Informed of the change now underway by DOE, House Speaker Aina Saoluaga T. Nua said, "This has been a serious concern of the Fono for some time now and I am glad it is being addressed."

"Too many students in one classroom is not a healthy learning environment, but with the new improvements being undertaken, I hope, will resolve many problems," said Speaker Aina.

According to the Speaker, large school enrollments, such as at Manulele Tausala, Lupelele Elementary and other similar schools, has raised the faipules concerns about overcrowding.

According to Sataua, in addition to the 40 additional teaching positions, all budgeted funding for vacant non-teacher positions will be used to hire additional teachers, "in order to provide effective instructional strategies aimed at improving the achievement levels of all students in grades K to 12.

"It is the department’s goal to reduce the student/teacher ratio from 35:1 to 20:1.

"A moratorium on filling budgeted vacant non-teaching positions is currently in effect," Sataua explained.

Another area of focus is to increase the number of classrooms to accommodate these new positions, which the Director said will amount to 50 to 60 new teachers after including budgeted money for the vacant non-teaching positions.

"The Governor has given the department his blessing and approval to propose the construction of additional classrooms at those elementary schools where the enrollment is over 1,000 students and currently (there are) more than 30 students per teacher," Sataua pointed out.

Under this improvement plan, Sataua said there are also plans which call for the immediate recruitment of teachers who will be responsible for the delivery of content areas, such as trigonometry, calculus, physics, chemistry and reading/writing in junior levels and secondary schools.

"Other areas of focus aimed at improving achievement levels of students in public schools will be placed in motion as the review of the Education Plan continues," said Sataua.

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