fono in Review
HEARING BEFORE THE HOUSE COMMITTEE ON EDUCATION
During the confirmation hearing for Director of Education Vaitinasa Dr. Salu Finau Hunkin this past Wednesday, Rep. Maugaoalii Leapai Sipa Anoai urged the new DOE director to look into changing the bus schedule for elementary school kids, saying that buses are picking up the little ones too early and there is concern that there is no adult supervision on campus when the bus arrives on school grounds.
According to the Fagatogo lawmaker, the school bus picking up kids from the town area arrives in Fagatogo well before 7 a.m. and to his understanding, the school cafeteria does not open until around 7 a.m. He says he knows this because he actually followed the school bus.
“What are the kids doing on campus between 6:30 a.m. and 7 a.m. when the cafeteria isn’t open at that time and there is no adult supervision on school grounds?” he asked. The Maoputasi lawmaker urged Vaitinasa to see if there can be a time change in the bus schedule because not only are the kids having to wake up early to catch the school bus, but also students are arriving on campus well before there is ample adult supervision.
During this same hearing, Rep. Vaamua Henry Sesepasara inquired about what it costs to educate one student in American Samoa, and noted that based on figures submitted to them, there is a very big difference in numbers compared to the US.
Vaitinasa explained that it costs $4,622.29 to educate one student in American Samoa, while it costs $23,330.10 to educate one student in the United States. She said the figures include all the resources like books and materials, needed to teach one child in the classroom for 180 days, which is the number of school days in one academic year.
Rep. Vailoata Amituana’i inquired about the common core standards and asked about its purpose. Vaitinasa replied that the USDOE has developed standards in English Language Arts and Mathematics that have been accepted and adopted by 47 states and all of the US territories. According to information given to the House members, adopting these standards will allow the DOE to provide compatible and rigorous education expectations. Currently, standards for science and social studies are being developed. The model will be the template to develop standards in Samoan Language Arts to ensure the preservation of our native culture and language.
Common core standards also address career readiness. To implement these standards, an intense evaluation of our vocational education program must be performed. This program must be enhanced to better prepare our students for post secondary career paths, and the program design should be a collaborative effort between the local Department of Education and the American Samoa Community College.
Vaitinasa said she has urged the DOE staff not to rush into anything and to “take their time,” as there have been other programs in the past that have come and gone with no fruitful results.
HOUSE HEARING WITH PUBLIC WORKS
A number of questions were lodged at Department of Public Works acting director Faleosina Faiai Voigt during a hearing before the House Committee on Public Works on Tuesday.
Aua faipule Faimealelei Anthony Allen inquired about the status of the Aua seawall project and said, “It’s going on three months and I’m just wondering when the first stone can be turned for this project.”
Voigt responded that they are awaiting an Army Corps permit, which she describes as “a one-stop-shop for agencies” similar to a local land use permit. She explained that there are issues that first need to be resolved with agencies like NOAA and the US Wildlife and Fisheries Service. She said the contract for the work has already been awarded but now it is at the federal level and there are issues that first need to be resolved before work can commence.
Freshman lawmaker Rep. Timusa Tini C. Lam Yuen inquired about the roads in his district and asked Voigt if these roads, specifically the back road leading to Leone High School, were included in the 5-year plan, to which Voigt said yes. The 5-year Territorial Transportation Improvement Plan (TTIP), according to the Public Works acting director, is currently being reviewed by Governor Lolo Moliga and afterwards, it will be open for public comments before it is sent off island for approval.
Ituau faipule Fagasoaia Lealaitafea inquired about the road at the turn-off to Sunrise Sewing Shop in Malaeimi, and asked Voigt if there was anything that could be done as far as road repair work for this area. Voigt explained that Public Works cannot develop a project within the area in question because of issues involving ASPA and its water supply. “We were to draw up a design and that was it,” Voigt said, adding that all they can do is have a road grader come out and temporarily flatten out the bumps but nothing permanent as far as asphalt or concrete can be used.