May 1, 2002 – Gov. Charles W. Turnbull had kind words for former Education Commissioner Ruby Simmonds on Wednesday, along with tough talk about the need to improve the territory's schools.
"I'm not going to bash anyone or say anything negative. I made a decision and I did what I felt was right to do," Turnbull said. "The lady has been a senator and a professor of the university [of the Virgin Islands]. She has given much service to the community. Right now, it's just time to look ahead."
Turnbull commented following his brief Law Day luncheon remarks to more than 100 Rotary Club and V.I. Bar Association members and guests at the Mahogany Run clubhouse on St. Thomas.
The governor fired Simmonds on Tuesday after learning that the Commission on Secondary Schools of the Middle States Association of Colleges and Schools had rejected the territory's appeal of a decision to withdraw the accreditation of Charlotte Amalie, Central and Ivanna Eudora Kean High Schools.
He noted Wednesday that the administration is in the process of applying for new accreditation for the schools. That process could take one to two years, he said.
In his luncheon comments, the governor appeared upbeat and jovial, even joking about May Day celebrations during his youth. But he turned sober as he sought to offer reassurance to those reeling from the news that the high schools have lost accreditation. "I'm not going to make excuses," he said. "Mistakes were made."
But, "Every cloud has a silver lining, and every setback is a setup to go forward," he said. "As your governor, as an educator, as a Virgin Islander, I am not going to leave any stone unturned to improve schools. As we look back on 2002, we will say we lost accreditation. But in 2003 and 2004, we will say, the schools were much better. This will never happen again."
Turnbull said he is working on a plan to get schools "in tip-top shape" but offered no specifics. He praised the Rotarians for their support of the schools and asked for their continued assistance. "We are all in the same boat and must row forward," he said.
For further details on the commissioner's removal, see "Turnbull fires Simmonds as Education head".
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