CNMI TEACHERS, WORKERS RECEIVE PINK SLIPS

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School principal says most will be reassigned

By Raquel Bagnol SAIPAN, CNMI (Marianas Variety, May 5, 2010) – In the Commonwealth of the Northern Mariana Islands (CNMI), fifty-four teachers, support staff and employees of Saipan Southern High School (SSHS) received "pink slips" or a 90-day notice which takes effect tomorrow, May 6.

The issuance of the "pink slips" demoralized and caused panic and uncertainty among teachers and staff, but SSHS principal Craig H. Garrison told the Variety in an interview yesterday that the notice was issued only as a "universal precaution" and is not something to panic about.

Within the 90-day period, Garrison said the school will issue notices of renewal to those who will be retained and will also notify staff that may be re-assigned to other positions.

"In fact, we have started issuing notices of renewal already," he added.

Garrison said only two of the 54 may not be renewed.

"The 90-day notices were issued to all the teachers and staff consistent with all the other districts in the nation that are having budgetary issues," he said.

The notices will give way to a reshuffling of staff depending on the school’s needs, he added.

He anticipates an increase in student enrollment for the coming school year, and this will require more classes for particular subjects.

But other subjects may need fewer teachers, Garrison said.

He noted that in California, the state Department of Education always issues thousands of "pink slips" to teachers every April.

SSHS is the first CNMI school that issued a 90-day notice to its teachers and staff.

Garrison said the local budget for school operations has been frozen for the past couple of months.

SSHS used to get US$130,000 per school year given out on quarterly allocations, which have stopped.

The school has 850 students, a figure that may reach 1,100 in the coming school year, Garrison said.

"The school needs funds for its day to day operation and at times we use our personal funds for classroom expenses as needed because we place the needs of the students as a top priority," Garrison said.

Education Commissioner Rita Sablan yesterday said she had talked to Garrison about the pink slips.

"It is unfortunate that it happened during Teacher Appreciation Week. It shouldn’t have happened but I already advised Mr. Garrison to make corrective actions and revoke the 90-day notices he issued," Sablan said.

However, Garrison said the notices were issued only after repeated consultation with the Public School System’s (PSS) human resources office and legal counsel regarding the proper procedure for the issuance of the 90-day notices to his staff, and it was PSS that recommended that all staff receive them instead of only a few.

Regarding the budget issue, Sablan said everybody and not just SSHS has been asked to implement cost-cutting measures.

"Everyone’s affected," she added.

SSHS staff members interviewed by this reporter said that they received the 90-day notice yesterday while the island was supposed to be celebrating Teacher Appreciation Week.

"I honestly felt very demoralized and humiliated being fired from the school," one staff member said.

 

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