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DOE House hearing tackles problems at Nu’uuli Poly Tech & unpaid bus drivers

Unpaid overtime for school bus drivers and a refocus of study courses at Nu’uuli Poly Tech High School were some of the issues raised by lawmakers during a House Education Committee hearing on Wednesday where Education Department director Vaitinasa Dr. Salu Hunkin Finau fielded several questions.




Rep. Fetu Fetui Jr. said he believes the pay scale for bus drivers is too low and at the same time asked to look at unpaid overtime for bus drivers, saying many have not received overtime pay for a long time.


Vatinasa said starting pay for bus drivers as well as personnel such as janitors is at $9,000 annually while increments have been frozen in past years due to ASG financial constraints. She says that DOE is awaiting the implementation of the governor’s initiative to increase salaries of all those who make less than $10,000.


Gov. Lolo Matalasi Moliga announced late last month during his speech at the government-sponsored Labor Day celebration that he has instructed Treasury and Human Resources departments that effective in the new fiscal year — which begins Oct. 1, 2013 — all employees making less than $10,000 will get their pay increased to $10,000 or more.


Human Resources director Sonny Thompson told Samoa News last Friday that an estimated number of about 355 ASG workers will be affected by this initiative.


During the House hearing, Vaitinasa said overtime pay for bus drivers must be paid out because they also work for after school activities.


However, she said that between 2009 and 2012 there was a problem with paying overtime due to the lack of supporting documents, adding that the only information the main office has received is the list of bus drivers who were due overtime.


Vaitinasa said DOE is working on trying to address this issue through any supporting documents.




A lawmaker raised the subject of a gymnasium for Nu’uuli Poly Tech, and Vaitinasa first pointed out that DOE is working on future plans for the trade school. She says many graduates prefer going directly into the workforce to help their families, so the effort there is to concentrate on English and Math and to learn skills that will be useful for graduates going directly into the labor force.


Additionally there are students at the trade school who want to enter the military upon graduation but only a certain percentage of them pass the entrance exam.


As for the gymnasium, Vaitinasa says there was funding allocated for such a project but there were other, more serious needs for public schools. She also pointed out that another issue for Nu’uuli Poly Tech is the lack of available land and space to build a gym, however the administration is looking at a parcel of ASG land next door to the school that is currently being used by a company whose lease will expire soon.




Responding to a committee question about a $5 registration fee, Vaitinasa says it's against the law to charge any fees because compulsory education — as cited in the law — is free of charge.


She said any money collected at the school level may only be for school activities or events such as a school prom.




Vaitinasa acknowledged a lot of the concerns raised by lawmakers regarding the condition of the schools and things that need to be done, but pointed out that this is a collaborative effort between DOE, the schools, the PTAs, parents and the Fono.