NMI Education Board Extends Teacher

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Pacific Islands Development Program, East-West Center With Support From Center for Pacific Islands Studies, University of Hawai‘i

Certification Deadline
Certification deficiencies must be addressed within one year

By Moneth Deposa

SAIPAN, CNMI (Saipan Tribune, June 7, 2013) – Public school teachers in the Northern Mariana Islands who fear losing their jobs next school year can now heave a sigh of relief after the Board of Education yesterday approved a one-year extension for them to complete their certification requirements.

The proposal was endorsed yesterday by Education Commissioner Rita A. Sablan, Ed.D., to the three-member fiscal and personnel affairs committee, which unanimously approved the recommendation. The full board is expected fully ratify the decision at its next regular meeting.

Nearly 200 staff of the CNMI Public School System (PSS)-mostly classroom teachers-were issued 90-day non-renewal notices following a determination that they are non-compliant with the board's certification and licensure policy. Most of the recipients were notified that their contracts will expire on Aug. 13 and that they will only be renewed if all requirements are met.

The one-year extension kicks in from the date the 90-day notices were received.

During yesterday's panel deliberation, member Marylou Ada and board chair Herman T. Guerrero emphasized that the extension will not exceed one year and teachers must show good faith in completing the requirements.

Besides this extension, Guerrero's committee also waived the "teaching practice or practicum" required under the Basic II requirements for teachers.

A memorandum of understanding between the commissioner and affected teachers, according to Guerrero, must also be initiated to ensure that there is a target timeline and action plan for the teachers to work on in collaboration with the PSS.

Guerrero cited prior experiences where many teachers only enrolled in required classes at the beginning but later dropped out, resulting in failure to comply with the certification and licensure policy.

"If they can do it in less than 90 days, then they should do it. The timeline should be achievable [for the teacher] because we don't want to drag it for one year. That's not realistic," according to Guerrero.

Board member Tanya King said the teachers' progress in meeting the requirements must also be tracked and monitored.

King expressed hope that the courses these teachers need to take are in the Northern Marianas College's curriculum and are all available for PSS teachers.

Sablan said the human resource office is also putting together certification courses this summer to assist affected teachers.

The Board of Education has five different types of certifications: basic 1, basic II, specialized, standard with endorsement, and professional. Of these five certifications, three are renewable while two are non-renewable certificates.

PSS earlier disclosed that 176 employees were issued the non-renewal notices, 54 of which cover non-renewable certificates.

Based on the 90-day notices, affected employees are given until Aug. 13 to obtain, complete, or renew their required licenses and certificates or they will be let go.

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