Guam – The Governor and Lieutenant Governor began the first in a series of visits to public schools today [Wednesday].
The leaders toured H.S. Truman Elementary and Southern High schools this morning. Key Cabinet members joined the leaders to offer agency support services that will improve public schools.
“Education is the most important issue,” Governor Eddie Baza Calvo said. “We can’t have a good future if we don’t invest in better education for Guam’s children. We’re one government here. We need to wrap agency services around public schools and students. We need to help Department of Education become the breeding ground of a talented and educated workforce. We’re here to help.”
“As we walked around the schools and listened to the principals, teachers and students, there were many things they wanted to see improved,” Lt. Governor Ray Tenorio said. “We’re eager to help.”
Members of the Governor’s Cabinet were on hand to address specific issues:
* Benita Manglona, BBMR Director and Acting Director of Administration
* Ben Servino, DISID Director
* Wilfred Aflague, Director of Mental Health and Substance Abuse (with oversight of the I Famagu’on-ta program)
* Chief of Police Fred Bordallo
* Leo Casil, Deputy Director of Public Health and Social Services
* Vince Leon Guerrero, Governor’s Chief Education Advisor
Strong School Communities
Despite problems each school faces, the principals of both schools said their faculty, staff and parent volunteers work very hard to make their school communities the best they can; this, despite resource shortages. An example is a successful school-to-work program within Southern High School, which was started by a teacher and has been moving students into gainful employment. Another example is the library at H.S. Truman Elementary, where the librarian has turned the facility into a multimedia and multi-function center for learning. Several students were reading in the library when the Governor and Lt. Governor walked in.
Air Conditioning Down at Southern High School
Southern High School Principal James Petite toured Governor Calvo and Lt. Governor Tenorio inside the Library. Doors were open, fans were running and the area was hot and humid. The air conditioning units went down last week. The units are under warranty, however, the vendor has not yet responded to fix the units. Director of Administration Benita Manglona immediately got on the phone to make inquiries on the warranty and the vendor.
Air conditioning units also were down in the 2000 and 4000 buildings. Petite said air conditioning is a constant problem at the school. The Governor instructed his Director of Constituent Services, Jesse Alig, to work with DOE and Department of Public Works on possible solutions.
Drugs, School Violence, Bullying
The Governor brought Chief of Police Fred Bordallo to discuss a new program police officers put together to help children and families. Police officers will be partnering with school communities on an anti-drug, anti-violence and anti-bullying prevention campaign in the schools. The Chief, along with Lt. Governor Tenorio, who oversees public safety, believe it is vital for public safety agencies to prevent crime at the earliest stages.
Anger Management Issues
Both Geraldine Pablo, Acting Principal of H.S. Truman Elementary School, and Petite said schools should deal with behavioral issues early on, in the elementary years. Pablo said anger management issues manifest around the fifth grade, and the faculty and counselors do everything possible to teach children not to turn their anger to violence.
DISID Director Ben Servino noticed H.S. Truman Elementary needed a lot of work to become ADA compliant. Ramps at the school do not meet slope and grade requirements. There is no Braille available. Door knobs need to be replaced with levers. At Southern High School, there were fewer issues.
Internet Access, Computer Labs
Both schools are not Internet-ready. The schools, however, offer computer and Internet access in the libraries. Both Petite and Pablo said they would like their campuses to have wifi connections, allowing for greater access to students, teachers, staff and the community.
Petite said Southern High School was designed to be a community school. He said if given the resources, he wouldn’t mind opening up the school to the community to use after school hours. Such services would include Internet use, the library, the auditorium and the sports facilities.
Governor’s Chief Education Advisor Vince Leon Guerrero informed the Governor that ARRA funding is scheduled to be used to improve facilities at both schools. This includes the auditorium and gymnasium at Southern High School. On his tour of H.S. Truman Elementary, the Governor noticed three dead tall trees and ordered Alig to work with DPW to ensure the safety hazards are cut down before a student gets hurt.
The team also visited the playground, where they offered simple and quick fixes to make it safer for students. Again, the Governor directed Alig to move resources from DPW over to the school.