AMERICAN SAMOA STRUGGLES WITH TEACHER SHORTAGE

By Fili Sagapolutele

PAGO PAGO, American Samoa, (Samoa News, Aug. 26) - Two weeks into the start of the public school's new school year, reports of "continued teacher shortages" have surfaced from the Western Fautasi District at one high school and four elementary schools.

Samoa News was unable to confirm at press time what other districts were also facing a shortage of teachers.

The President of the Leone High School PTA, To'alepai Kathryn Tupua, addressed the teacher shortage problems at Leone High School and its feeder schools on August 22 to Department of Education (DOE) Director Dr. Sili K. Sataua.

Tupua, also the Chairperson for the Western Fautasi District Leadership Team, wrote Dr. Sataua that Doe officials had been informed, at the end of the 2002/2003 school year, that Leone High School was without a full time English teacher, an Art teacher, and a Science teacher.

According to Tupua, the faculty, counselors and administrators had to step in to fill the void, caused by the teacher shortages, last school year.

Tupua said teachers that met the extra demands, had to complete the entire school year teaching a full load all day, everyday, without a preparation period.

"This type of overload is what forces teachers to quit DOE and seek employment elsewhere," Tupua wrote Dr. Sataua. "This is especially true when working conditions are compounded with demands for accountability and increased responsibility on the teacher to improve student outcomes, with minimal support and limited resources."

Leone High School faces a continued increase in enrollment every year ranging from 900 to 1,000 students and so far for this new school year, over 900 students had already pre-registered.

Again the school is facing shortage of 6 teachers in "content areas": two each in the English and Science departments, and one each in the Math and Art departments.

"Students will continue to lag 4 to 5 grade levels behind their U.S. counterparts if the teacher shortage is not addressed," Tupua points out. "Students will continue to enter remedial ELI programs at ASCC and be ill-prepared for college if the teacher shortage is not addressed."

It was also learned during a District Leadership Team meeting last week that there are shortage in feeder schools as well: Leone Midkiff is short of three teachers, one at Alataua Lua, two at Siliaga Elementary, and a Librarian at Taputapu Elementary.

Additionally, some of these schools have appalling ratios of students to one teacher. For example, enrollment at Leone Midkiff is over 1,200 with only 35 teachers on staff giving a ratio of 34-to-1, a ratio described by one parent as "outrageous" and believes the government should do more.

Just recently, Governor Togiola Tulafono, responding to Samoa News inquiries cited that a waiver, for the ASG hiring freeze, had been issued to allow the hiring of more teachers in an attempt to address the teacher shortage.

40 new teachers for the current school year were to be recruited at the time.

Tupua's letter recalled the Governor's statement in the Samoa News and points out that it is always the reply from DOE that "no funding" is available.

However, Tupua points out that based on U.S. Department of Education appropriation, American Samoa received over $8 million as a base grant for Title I in fiscal year 2003.

The Western Fautasi District Leadership Team offered nine recommendations including the allowed transfer of federal formula grants to the Title I Program to address particular needs as hiring new teachers, increasing teacher pay and improving teacher training and professional development.

The group also called on the Fono to ensure that during the current FY 2004 budget hearings, that adequate funding is budgeted to hire new teachers and increase salaries of high performing teachers. The Governor's Office was also requested to "direct expeditious approval of vacant positions".

Copies of Tupua's letter was sent to the Governor, the Lieutenant Governor, Fono members from the western district, DOE's deputy directors and elementary and secondary division; Leone High School administration and PTA officers and membership, and other high school principals.

September 3, 2003

Samoa News: www.samoanews.com 

 

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