Feb. 7, 2005 While the widely-touted, "cricket, lovely cricket" matches raged over the weekend on the Addelita Cancryn Junior High School grounds, school supporters used the time to plea for "progress, lovely progress."
Students made their needs clear in a brightly-painted message, in six-foot tall letters, winding around the plyboard enclosure that surrounds the school's burned out classrooms: "Remember Our School! Build It Back!"
Art teachers Leba Ola-Niyi and Austin Petersen lettered the sign, and youngsters from "Girl Power," a group led by Therese Hodge, physical education teacher, did the painting.
The beleaguered school has gotten some help since students and faculty staged a job action in January, but by no means have all the school's problems been addressed.
The January protests culminated in a meeting between Yvonne Pilgrim, Cancryn's principal, school faculty, parents and government officials, including Lt. Gov. Vargrave Richards and Education Commissioner Noreen Michael where short and long-term solutions were addressed. (See "Parents, Teachers Demand Action at Cancryn").
The students' message is a graphic reminder to the V. I. government to come through on those solutions.
Some progress has been made. A significant step has been taken on the academic front. The school has experienced continual problems from older, discipline-challenged students who were funneled back into Cancryn after the alternative school New Horizons closed. Those students, teachers and parents say, have threatened the younger students – verbally and physically.
Michael offered no concrete information when asked after the Cancryn meeting about transferring the students to Edith Williams, a new alternative school.
Ahmed Popo, Cancryn assistant principal, said Monday that about 13 of the students he didn't have an exact number have been transferred to Edith Williams, and others are attending a program at Cancryn. The program, called Tshwane, is taught by eight Cancryn teachers and a counselor. The classes are separate from the other students, he said. Eight students attended the classes Monday, Popo said.
The name Tshwane, is an African word meaning "we are the same," he said. (There is currently a controversial move in South Africa to rename Pretoria, Tshwane.)
The school has undergone a major cleanup in the past few weeks. Popo said the grounds have never been so clean. (See "Cancryn Getting Some Attention After Walkouts").
The public address system is now operating. Popo said, "It makes thing so much easier. The east and west ends of the school can communicate, without running back and forth delivering messages."
The roofs have been cleaned of debris in preparation for work to make them rainproof, he said. "It's not done yet," he said, "It's in process." Also, he said, "The security system is getting in place. Representatives from Alert #1 International were here today checking the campus. They are waiting for a contract to be signed, and the work will begin."
That is the good news.
Students in Wendy Diaz's world history class still do not have textbooks. They share books, three students to one book, Diaz said last month. Popo said no definite timetable for construction on the burned out classrooms has been announced. Nor has a decision yet been announced on whether the school will be moved to a new location, a decision which directly impacts spending priorities.
Richards, in a release last week, indicated he has met with insurance adjusters and conveyed his displeasure with the amount of time it has taken to deliver money for the purchase of books lost in the fire.
"The adjusters assured me that they have given the principal the go-ahead for the procurement of those books," Richards said. "It is critical the books and supplies are purchased immediately in order that the students may carry on with their education."
Additionally, Richards noted that an architect is working on drawings for the reconstruction of Cancryn's fire-damaged wing and should complete them shortly.
Student morale is good. Popo said, "They are very resilient. They can work under any conditions. They are very cognizant of what is happening, and they are positive."
Popo's dedication to the school is evident, as is his frustration at not being able to do more for the students. "We do so many things. We have spelling bees, science fairs. We are always involved with the students. We have a marching band, 'The Marching Iguanas'," he said. "We are really a good school."
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.