A serious shortage of teachers of required subjects at Charlotte Amalie High School has some parents demanding action from the governor and others tutoring their children at home to make up for it.
The Ninth Grade Parents Group at CAHS called a meeting Thursday night to try to get some answers from school officials only to find the situation was worse than they expected.
Egbert George, president of the parents of ninth graders group, told St. Thomas Source there was a shortage of at least eight teachers in one instance a General Science teacher. General Science is a required course but there is no one to teach it, George said.
Other subjects without teachers are English, Foreign Language, Science, Industrial Arts and Math.
There is also a shortage of librarians and custodians, according to George.
More than 100 parents attended Thursday's meeting, most of them parents of ninth graders. When asked if there was any unruliness at the meeting, George said only, "Some parents voiced some strong concerns."
George also said the questions raised Thursday had been asked before, "but only (Thursday) night did we realize how serious the problem was."
So George wrote a letter Friday, on behalf of the parents, to Gov. Charles W. Turnbull, calling on him to "show your commitment to our children by locating and expediting the processing" of NOPAs.
"We also are demanding that the government do whatever is necessary to fill the many vacant positions as CAHS and at the high schools in the Virgin Islands," the letter said. "Quite frankly, governor, we are outraged! This situation is unacceptable."
Several teachers have left the school to seek better-paying work elsewhere or because they haven't been paid. One teacher has been working since October without pay because of a NOPA that hasn't been processed, according to a source inside the school. Some teachers never returned from Christmas vacation.
Ninth graders are not the only ones facing problems as a result of the teacher shortage. Silvia Campbell, mother of Michael Campbell, a senior at the high school, said due to the loss of a teacher for Vocational Education another required course her son has had to rearrange his schedule. And Mrs. Campbell, foreign languages coordinator for the district, is teaching Spanish IV to her son at home.
"The problem is that we don't pay teachers enough," Campbell said. "Starting teachers get $20,000 a year."
Campbell feels that's not enough, especially considering the high cost of living in the Virgin Islands.
The shortage of teachers in the Virgin Islands is not a new problem. In 1996 Pulitzer Prize-winning journalist Melvin Claxton did a series for the V.I. Daily News called, "Cheating Our Children."
Among many other things, Claxton reported that on any given day, one in 10 public school teachers is not in the classroom. At the time of Claxton's report, there was no Geometry teacher at CAHS and no Spanish teacher at Ivanna Eudora Kean High School.
George said sometimes when teachers leave mid-semester, students have to repeat the classes; or some drop the classes and have to make them up again along the way.
Campbell said Michael was not in danger of not graduating even though he's had to rearrange his schedule because "they give priority to seniors."
CAHS Principal Jeannette Smith, who attended Thursday's meeting, could not be reached Friday for comment. The school was closed.