Guam Education Board Members Oppose New School Schedule

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Necessary two-thirds member consensus unrealized

By Jerick Sablan

HAGÅTÑA, Guam (Pacific Daily News, June 21, 2012) – An opinion from the Office of the Attorney General (AG) could determine whether thousands of Guam public high school students will have a 4x4 schedule, and a longer day of classes, next school year.

At the Guam Education Board meeting yesterday at Agana Heights Elementary School, five members voted to rescind a policy passed earlier this year to implement the new schedule when the 2012-2013 school year begins in August.

But the board is seeking a clarification from the attorney general after board member Barry Mead noted that a two-thirds vote is required to rescind a previous motion of the school board if it's not on the agenda. There were seven members at the board meeting. A two-thirds vote would require six of the nine board members to vote yes to undo the change to the schedule.

Board members Paul Pineda and May Camacho were off island and didn't attend the meeting. Mead and Francis Santos, the board's chairman, voted "no."

"The (4x4) schedule still stands until such time that the AG says differently," Board Chairman Francis Santos said. He said if needed, he would call for a special meeting so the board could vote.

Reconsider

Board member Joe San Agustin made the motion for the board to reconsider the decision it made in February. He said the board didn't have input from teachers, parents and students on whether the new high school schedule would meet the goal of improving graduation rates.

"We don't have enough feedback from the stakeholders. And one size doesn't fit all in this case," San Agustin said.

He said several educators told him implementing the new schedule would be difficult because there was hardly any information on what the change would mean.

In the 4x4 schedule, students would attend four 90-minute classes a day, which would increase the daily instructional time by 60 minutes. It's unclear, however, if schools would extend the school day by an hour, or reduce the lunch period and breaks in the morning and afternoon.

Multiple mandates

The board's reason for approving the new schedule was the hope it would improve the public school graduation rate, which hovers around 66 percent. Only San Agustin voted against the new schedule.

Many teachers protested the decision, saying the board failed to talk to teachers, parents and students before making the decision.

Santos met with high school principals on Tuesday. The administrators told him they either met with all teachers to inform them of the decision, or they met with department chairpersons, who were charged with informing other teachers.

Teachers also said there are too many other mandates the school system is working on: a new curriculum and trying to fit in additional Chamorro language classes required by law.

Board rules

Mead said the board follows parliamentary procedures outlined in Robert's Rules of Order, which he noted require that a motion to rescind a previous decision must be noted in the meeting agenda -- otherwise, two-thirds of the board must vote in favor to rescind the motion. The agenda only noted the high school schedule was to be discussed -- it didn't specifically state a motion to rescind the February decision was going to be made.

Mead contested the motion. San Agustin said Guam law requires a simply majority vote, which would be five. Another board member suggested they get a legal opinion.

Guam DOE attorney Rebecca Perez said, generally speaking, law supersedes policy. She was reluctant to say whether that's the case with San Agustin's motion and the subsequent vote, because she hadn't had time to research the matter.

After the meeting, Ronald Ayuyu, who has been on the school board since 2004, said it was the first time the issue of a two-thirds vote was brought up.

"We never had a problem with the five votes, since it's in the law, but when a board member disagrees, we want to get a legal opinion to clarify," Ayuyu said.

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