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Governor Camacho wants more control

By William B. Martin Jr.

HAGÅTÑA, Guam (Pacific Daily News, June 23, 2008) - The government of Guam has until Friday to convince the U.S Department of Education it’s capable of properly managing the millions of federal dollars it receives for public education.

Failure to do so could jeopardize more than US$20 million in consolidated grant funding to the Guam Public School System.

Yesterday, GovGuam officials still were considering how to prove they can fix what federal officials called "management instability" and a "state of uncertainty" at the public school system.

U.S. DOE last week warned the governor and GPSS officials that if the school system can’t prove its compliance with federal education regulations, the federal agency may withhold federal education grants and add more stringent conditions to those grants.

About 11 school programs, such as the Gifted and Talented Education program and the Department of Education Extended Day program could lose funding.

Gov. Felix Camacho yesterday again said he should have more control over the school system.

Speaker Judith Won Pat over the weekend spoke to U.S. DOE Risk Management Service Director Philip Maestri to better understand his concerns.

"We need to very seriously look at what can be done to keep this (loss of federal money) from happening," she said.

She said U.S. DOE’s main worries stem from how grant funds are handled and what she characterized as a perceived instability in those who manage the school system -- not from the general operations of the school system.

"These monies are for reform, and it’s hard to see the results when there’s no accountability," Won Pat said.

Won Pat added that the school system’s tendency to change grant policies without following the proper process contributed to the problem.

She also said the "revolving door" of GPSS superintendents hasn’t helped matters.

Won Pat emphasized that the school board needs to refrain from meddling in operational issues and must let the superintendent implement directives as he or she sees fit.

Camacho wants a "shakeup" in the way things are run now with the elected school board. He has asked lawmakers to pass legislation that would give him greater authority over the school system.

Bill 293, which would transform the school board and allow the governor to appoint half its members, will be discussed at a public hearing today.

Camacho said he has been on top of the issue but has refrained from getting involved with what is under the purview of the school board and GPSS administrators.

"I’ve always been here, respecting the law," he said.

He described the problems in the school system as a "very complex and difficult situation."

"To simply put more money in a failing system is not the solution," Camacho said. "It has been a great disservice to our children."

Camacho said he also wants to be able to appoint the GPSS superintendent. He said that person would remain in place until the next governor takes office, which would provide stability to the school system.

Won Pat said that while she continues to explore the government’s options nothing is off the table.

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