Home News Local news Senate Approves LaVerne Terry as Education Commissioner

Senate Approves LaVerne Terry as Education Commissioner

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March 18, 2008 — Pushing past minority-majority politics and pledging support for change in the territory's ailing public school system, senators voted 11 to 4 Tuesday to pass the nomination of LaVerne Terry as Education commissioner.
Approving Terry's nomination in a vote by the full legislative body were Sens. Liston Davis, Carlton Dowe, Louis P. Hill, Norman Jn Baptiste, Shawn-Michael Malone, Basil Ottley Jr., Ronald E. Russell, James Weber III, Carmen M. Wesselhoft, Celestino A. White Sr. and Alvin L. Williams.
Voting against the nomination were Sens. Juan Figueroa-Serville, Neville James, Terrence "Positive" Nelson and Usie R. Richards.
The arguments against Terry's nomination centered, for the most part, on the idea that a Virgin Islander — or an individual who has already been exposed to the territory's unique history and culture — should be running Education.
"If I thought the nomination process, as far as Dr. Terry was concerned, was fair in that local administrators were given a fair shake, then my vote would be yes," James said. "But I know it wasn't fair, so my vote is no."
Figueroa-Serville added that he "couldn't believe there wasn't a Virgin Islander available with the intestinal fortitude needed to" lead the department. Nelson said candidly that he would have "preferred" the nomination of someone from the territory already familiar with cultural mores and practices.
"I don't think Education necessarily needs a turnaround," Nelson said. "Many of the problems we see here are social, and those are the things that need to be fixed. It would take anyone from the outside time to acclmate to the people, and be in a position to address those issues."
Terry's supporters had a different perspective, and praised the nominee's "stellar" record in teaching and administration. Terry comes to the territory with 35 years of experience working for school districts in Delaware and Hartford, Conn.
"Where would the Virgin Islands be if we didn't have outside assistance?" Davis asked. "I left the territory at one point for New York — what would have happened to me if they had said, 'Well, you're from the Virgin Islands, so we don't want you in our school system.' Sometimes it is best if we look outside the box — not because there may not be people in the Virgin Islands that aren't qualified, but because we might want a different perspective on these issues."
Jn Baptiste rallied around Davis' statements, and said that sometimes the fight between outsiders and locals should be put aside "for the greater good."
"We've had past commissioners, many from here, that didn't make a bit of difference," he said. "We now have a person before us with a proven track record … so much so that if she were to fail me, I'll be a monkey's uncle."
Other senators stressed that the department cannot, at this point, continue to function without a leader. Many also said that Terry came with "less baggage" than her predecessor, Lynn Spampinato, whose nomination to lead the department was shot down last year by the full Senate body on a 10-to-4 vote.
Stepping into the well after the vote was taken, Terry thanked senators for their support and pledged to work with them as she moves forward with her plans for Education.
"You will always get my very best for the children of this territory and their families," she said.
All senators were present during Tuesday's session.
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