March 24, 2003 – Federal teacher certification mandates involving nearly 2,000 persons, delinquent student loans involving prominent public officials and personnel matters of a confidential nature dominated the agenda of Monday's Board of Education special session.
Despite an unsettled atmosphere from the March 13 unseating of Dr. Jorge Galiber as chair, board members found themselves faced Monday with issues requiring their attention, including personnel matters discussed but reportedly unresolved in a lengthy executive session.
"After taking testimony, we couldn't come to a resolution and people had to go home," the acting board chair, Harry Daniel, said later. He declined to describe the nature of the discussion, citing confidentiality. Another meeting will have to be called for the executive session to continue, he said, at a date to be decided.
Although the executive session took twice as long as the rest of the meeting, Daniel said the items discussed in public, including teacher certification, were the primary reasons board members agreed to hold the special meeting.
The federal No Child Left Behind Act calls for 20 percent of V.I. teaching professionals to meet a set of certification requirements by the end of this year. At the Monday meeting, two members of the board's Professional Staff Certification Committee explained the steps they had taken in preparation for certifying nearly 2,000 teaching professionals and paraprofessionals.
Public hearings are to be held May 6 on St. Croix, May 8 on St. Thomas and May 9 on St. John to get feedback from teachers, administrators, Parent-Teacher Associations and other stakeholders on the regulations developed by the committee. Daniel said he hopes the certification process can be approved by the time of the board's next regular meeting, tentatively mid-May.
Draft copies of the Staff Certification Regulation have been distributed to schools, according to a report submitted by the two committee members. Board member Malik Sekou expressed concern that the requirements for certification still are not common knowledge among the teachers and paraprofessionals who will have to meet the standards someday soon.
The board also reviewed a number of written requests. They approved one from Sen. Shawn-Michael Malone inviting the board to attend a meeting of the Senate Youth Committee and another from Sen. Ronald Russell seeking the delinquency list of V.I. student loan holders.
However, Daniel told the Source Tuesday the list will be cleaned up and turned over to Russell "no later than April 21." He said the board wanted to be sure there were no mistakes on the list and that payments that had been made were accounted for.
Daniel said that the last time the names of delinquents was published the board got a lot of calls about mistakes, but he also said it spurred people to start paying on their loans.
Some board members expressed concern that disclosing the student loan delinquency list might embarrass public figures whose names appear on it. Sekou said "the most humane and dignified way to handle this is to have the professionals in this office contact them." Daniel was agreeable only for people — notable or not — who have been making good-faith efforts to repay their loans.
"It's not that we don't want to give him the list," Daniel said of Russell. "We don't want to give him a list with names on it of people who have been paying."
Until November, Russell was the legal counsel for the Board of Education.
Daniel said he does not see the request for the delinquent loan list as an attempt to take advantage of privileged information. In fact, he said, a successful collection effort on the "thousands of names" appearing on the list could return up to $2 million to the resources used to fund the student loans of today.

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