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Superintendent resignation and inspections cited as reasons for delay

By Brett Kelman

HAGATNA, Guam (Pacific Daily News, June 10, 2008) – Your children's summer vacation may be extended by a month.

The elected school board is considering delaying the start of next school year by as long as a month. Guam Education Policy Board Chairman Joe San Agustin said yesterday that there are numerous reasons to delay the start of school.

"I honestly do not trust that the Guam Public School System (GPSS) management people will get it all done in time," San Agustin said. He said there are major challenges facing the school system in the coming months.

The GPSS Health and Safety Task Force plans to inspect the remaining schools by the end of June. The task force has closed five schools this year and parts of many schools. More closures could follow. The task force has also requested that GPSS assess the structural integrity of all temporary classrooms.

GPSS is still negotiating an architectural and engineering contract with an unnamed bidder to plan capital improvement projects throughout the school system, including those demanded by the task force. Once the assessment is complete, other bidders must be found to do the actual work.

The Direct Instruction contract ends June 15 and with it ends most of elementary and middle school curriculum. Although the 2008-2013 District Action Plan allows each individual school to choose its own reform program from a list of three GPSS-approved providers, the providers haven't been selected. San Agustin said it is already too late for most schools to switch programs.

GPSS must find a new superintendent, following the resignation of Giovanni "Bunny" Sgambelluri June 4. The application process began yesterday and is expected to take about a month. Wilfred Aflague, who was detailed to GPSS by the governor in mid-April to fill the chief financial officer position, will act as interim superintendent.

Three new northern schools that are scheduled to open in August lack desks, chairs and computers, among other equipment. San Agustin said equipment may not arrive until after classes are scheduled to start.

San Agustin said he hoped to meet with the Guam Federation of Teachers sometime this week to discuss the feasibility of moving the school year. The attorney general ruled that the school board has the authority to set the school calendar in a legal opinion issued June 3, but San Agustin said the board couldn't make that big of a change to the calendar without the cooperation of the teachers union.

GFT President Matt Rector is on vacation and couldn't be reached for comment. Options

Sgambelluri said the monthlong delay was only one possibility being considered. He said GPSS could delay the entire school year, as San Agustin has proposed, or just rewrite the calendar for students at the three new schools.

He also said the missing equipment at new schools was the school system's biggest hurdle.

"We have to decide if we want to open up right or open up half-right. That's our biggest challenge," he said. "The vendor has said there is no way they can get the collateral equipment by Aug. 11."

As another possibility, Sgambelluri said, the school system also was considering "doubling up" students at some northern schools until the new schools are equipped.

Executive response

Shawn Gumataotao, Gov. Felix Camacho's spokesman, said the administration is opposed to delaying the start of the school year.

"GPSS' inability to prepare for the start of the school year is a problem that can't be corrected at the expense of parents and students," he said.

During his State of the Island address on April 14, Camacho proposed a different plan to fix the school system -- put him in charge. Camacho asked the Legislature to give him authority to appoint a superintendent and reform the board to expedite improvements.

Gumataotao said a bill that would grant the governor authority over GPSS has been introduced but has not been voted on yet.

DI contract

The contract with Direct Instruction ends June 15.

Yesterday, GPSS Associate Superintendent of Curriculum and Instruction Eloise Sanchez said the school system was currently choosing which of the proposed reform programs to implement in the public schools.

GPSS will offer three reform programs and each school will choose the one it wants to use, Sanchez said. She said the new format was created when the board passed the 2008-2013 District Action Plan March 26.

"It will be in the hands of the schools to best fit the composition and academic needs of their students," she said. "According to the District Action Plan, it references that the stakeholders should be involved in the selection of their reform programs."

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