Jan 15, 2005 – The 15th Board of Education concluded a three-day retreat Saturday with its first public meeting where it elected Judy Gomez as its chairperson.
Board members Keith Richards, Terrence D. Joseph, Shawn Gibson along with Gomez expressed optimism and made speeches about dedication to quality education and putting children first. Then reality came crashing down on them.
Teachers complained about the certification process, one teacher mentioned a Board of Education employee, he said was unhelpful.
A former teacher, Mary Moorehead, even complained about the way the meeting was being conducted.
The board had been discussing a proposal to devote $10,000 from the Economic Development Commission to teacher development specifically to help teachers pay for a new course at UVI that would fulfill teachers' requirement for student teaching.
Trengenza Roach, the board's executive director, said there were at least 71 teachers in the district who needed to meet the student teacher requirement for certification..
Board members debated whether the money should be divided with each district St. Thomas/St. John and St. Croix getting $5,000 or by using a needs-based criterion to see which teachers get it.
Moorehead was not allowed to speak until the "other business" part of the meeting.
The board decided to split the $10,000 evenly between districts. Moorehead, when she had the chance to speak, said that educators should be looking at the needs when making decisions about which teachers to help get certification. She said she spent time as the only certified teacher in the English department at her school and it was burdensome.
As for the fact that she did not get to speak to the matter until after the decision was made she said, "You say you are trying to encourage parents to participate, But why should parents come? It is like watching TV, you can't interact."
Moorehead's major complaint, however, is one that she has been bringing to the board for almost nine months now.
She said that she wrote the board in June 2003 with objections that teachers were using standard tests developed nationally for student assessment as final tests for certain subjects. She said this is hurting students and it was"shameful" that no one was acting on her complaint.
At this time Gomez iterated what was to be her litany for the final part of the two-hour meeting. "Complaints must come to us in writing. They must be notarized. We will respond to them."
She said the board was in receipt of the letter from Moorehead. However, board member Dr. Jorge Galiber said he had never seen the letter.
He also said he was "appalled" that someone would attack the board the way Moorehead did on the board's first official meeting.
After the meeting Gomez was assailed with questions from a reporter about how the board could make a difference when so many officials had made so many promises before, but nothing changes.
She smiled and said, "We must not shy from attacking every problem."
She added the board was planning to make site visits to the schools to see what needed to be done concerning facilities.
Gomez attended St. Mary's School on St. Croix and graduated from Sts. Peter and Paul on St. Thomas. She presently works for the V.I. Department of Justice.
She said, "I have spent my whole adult life working for children."
She has been an elementary teacher, a senator and served as chair of the Education Committee. In her present position she is an attorney at the Justice Department and works on youth programs.
Share your reaction to this news with other Source readers. Please include headline, your name and city and state/country or island where you reside.