The leadership of the V.I. Department of Education could find itself being subpoenaed to appear before the Committee on Education to answer questions about the status of schools in St. Croix.
Education Commissioner Ruby Simmonds and other officials of the DOE were absent from a Friday hearing called by committee chairman Sen. Norman Jn-Baptiste.
Jn-Baptiste who proceeded with the meeting, despite being told by Simmonds that she and the teachers union were involved in mediation, expressed frustration when Deputy Superintendent Lionel Sewpershad did not have the answers the committee was seeking to the "many pressing problems" facing the school system on St. Croix.
At one point, the freshman senator who has clashed with Simmonds on more than one occasion, suggested that a no confidence vote be sent to those commissioners who fail to appear before the Senate and that the governor be urged to name persons to his cabinet "who can perform."
Senator Adelbert Bryan took the reprimand of the commissioners a step further by moving to have subpoenas issued to force attendance at a meeting scheduled for Jan. 17.
Aside from Simmonds, officials from Special Education, Finance, Public Finance, OMB and Public Works will be required to appear. Bryan wants several areas discussed at the meeting including, the process by which school bus drivers are paid, the timetable for repairs to be conducted at the public schools, a reported delay in payments to St. Croix bus vendors and a problem with insurance payments for bus drivers on St. Croix.
Ralph Mandrew, president of the VI Workers Union, which represents school bus drivers, spent considerable time before the committee detailing the history of slow and often times delayed payment to vendors for school bus service.
As recently as Monday, Abramson Bus Company pulled buses off the street for lack of payment, leaving hundreds of parents and guardians scrambling to get their children to school. The service was reinstated after the government delivered a check to Abramson.
In Friday’s meeting Senator Alicia Hansen
warned that she would take the department to court the next time bus
service is halted without adequate notice to parents.


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