As the Legislature's Education Committee was meeting on St. Croix, a handful of concerned parents on St Thomas walked from the Legislature to Government House in the hope of telling Gov. Charles W. Turnbull their concerns about the dearth of teachers at Charlotte Amalie High School.
The governor never showed up, despite repeated assurances from Government House personnel that Turnbull was "on his way." After a two-hour wait the group dispersed as rain began to fall.
The group, Ninth Grade Parents at CAHS, sent a letter to Turnbull late last week asking the governor to do something about the painfully slow NOPA process and to fill vacancies at the high school.
Egbert George, president of the Ninth Grade Parents group, said Wednesday the situation has actually worsened since last week, with the departure of another teacher due to pregnancy. That brings to nine the shortage of teachers for that grade alone.
The smattering of people attending the rally included some ninth grade students.
Iambakisye Richardson, 14, said after two weeks of his wood shop class, the teacher left due to an injury and no substitute teacher is available.
Richardson's mother, Gail Samuel, said, "When the teachers leave mid-semester, the children have to take the classes over. It's ridiculous there are no substitute teachers."
Samuels said, "They tell us not to worry – 'they are ninth graders, they have time.'"
But Samuels said the problem builds as time goes by and the students end up having to cram in all the classes later. "It's not fair to my son," who Samuels said has always been an honor-roll student.
Marie Matos, mother of two ninth graders at CAHS, said, "This is not a new problem. The administration needs to get its priorities straight. Every year at election time you hear the youth the youth the youth the youth." But Matos said nothing ever changes.
She thinks the parents need to wake up too.
Jessica Richardson, who has a 6-year-old at J. Antonio Jarvis Elementary School, said her son has no physical education teacher and no art class.
"Parents are asked to come in and help in the classrooms. I go when I can," she said. "But what am I supposed to do? I am a parent, not a teacher."
Though George admitted to being disappointed that the governor never showed up, he said, "I am excited about the number of parents who came."
It is not the end, George said. The governor will be invited to attend the next meeting of the Ninth Grade Parents on Feb. 15.
"We want to know what he plans to do" about the shortage of teachers and a more timely processing of NOPAs.
"In our older years we may be taken care of by a doctor or a nurse who is the product of today's educational system," George said. "The quality of that care will be a reflection of the quality of what (the students) get today."