Guam's New Education Board Members To Prioritize Teachers' Contract

Teachers have be working without contract since 2011

By Haidee V Eugenio

HAGÅTÑA, Guam (Pacific Daily News, Jan. 4, 2017) – The Guam Education Board’s newly sworn-in members, led by Chairman Peter Alecxis D. Ada,  said they will prioritize finalizing a teachers’ contract, six years after the last contract expired, along with addressing legal cases filed against the board.

Public school teachers’ contracts, represented by the Guam Federation of Teachers, expired on Nov. 6, 2011, and there has not been a contract in place since then.

Supreme Court Chief Justice Robert Torres Jr. administered the oath of office to six of seven education board members, including Lourdes Benavente, who took her oath via video.

Gov. Eddie Calvo has to fill two vacancies on the nine-member education board, which has oversight over the island’s public school system with some 31,000 students and some 4,000 employees.

The special education board meeting, held at Jose Rios Middle School Tuesday night, was mainly for the swearing-in of members and the election of officers, including Maria Gutierrez as the new vice chairwoman. Gutierrez called for a more unified and more transparent board to better serve public school students.

Ada, Gutierrez and Benavente were the only three board members who in October voted against ending the contract of Superintendent Jon Fernandez.

Only one of the six board members who voted to terminate Fernandez’s contract remains on the current board — former Chairwoman Lourdes San Nicolas. Because she’s currently on bereavement leave, San Nicolas will be sworn in on Jan. 17, Ada said.

The five other board members who voted to terminate Fernandez have since resigned or did not wish to serve another term, including newly elected member Kenneth Chargualaf, Jose Cruz, Rosie Tainatongo, Ryan Torres and Charlene Concepcion. Chargualaf resigned effective Dec. 31, although we won a board seat the General Election.

Fernandez sued the education board for $1 million for his alleged illegal termination, and also sued the six former and current board members in their personal capacity for $1 million each. The $7 million federal lawsuit is still pending, and the current board members said they are prohibited from discussing any aspect of the Fernandez termination or his lawsuit.

Joining Ada, Gutierrez, Benavente and San Nicolas on the newly sworn-in education board are elected member and retired teacher James Lujan, and Calvo-appointed members Ron McNinch, representing the business community, and Mark Mendiola, representing parents.

Ada, as the newly elected chairman, announced the board’s commitment to work with the Guam Federation of Teachers in finalizing the teachers’ collective bargaining agreement early this year.

The teachers’ union and the Guam Department of Education have been in contract negotiations for years, with disagreements on a number of contractual issues. Both parties initially thought in December 2015 that a completed contract would be finalized by then, but several fundamental issues remain to be resolved. This time around, Ada said, he will make sure there will be a teachers’ contract signing soon.

Ada also said the board will be addressing cases involving the board, although he did not specifically mention the Fernandez lawsuit.

During Tuesday night’s special meeting, the board also recognized former board Vice Chairwoman Rosie Tainatongo’s contributions to the education system. Tainatongo did not seek re-election to the education board. She lost in the mayoral race in Merizo during the November elections.

Pacific Daily News
Copyright © 2017 Guam Pacific Daily News. All Rights Reserved

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