Fono in Review
SENATE THANKS LOLO AND DPW FOR FIXING BAD ROADSIn a unanimous vote, the Senate yesterday approved a Senate resolution extending sincere appreciation to Gov. Lolo Matalasi Moliga and Public Works director Faleosina Voight for their immediate action to fix some of the worst roads in the territory. The resolution is sponsored by Sens. Nua Saoluaga, Sua V. Matautia, Letuligasenoa Soli, Faumuina Tagisiaali’i and Tuiasina S. Esera. According to the resolution, drivers and pedestrians have long suffered the poor conditions of public roads due to the lack of maintenance and harsh weather conditions that continuously affect the roads. It pointed to areas of the island with numerous potholes, which cause bumper-to-bumper traffic as motorists tried to avoid them. With the promise by the governor and his administration to put “People First”, the governor took immediate action by fixing heavily trafficked areas making transportation for residents much safer. “...it is our express desire” that Lolo and Voight “continue their efforts to improve public roads with the full support of the Legislature,” the resolution states and noted that the people of American Samoa convey their sincerest appreciation to the governor for putting his “People First” policy into action and addressing this long overdue problem, thereby making roads safer for drivers and pedestrians alike. In conclusion, the Senate — for itself and on behalf of the people of the territory — conveys its sincerest appreciation to the governor and Voight for taking immediate action to rehabilitate and restore significant and important portions of our public roads. HOUSEASPA OFFICIALS ANSWER QUESTIONS ON BOIL WATER NOTICEASPA Officials were in the House of Representatives earlier this week and were questioned about the boil water notice that has been in effect in various locations for the past several years. Appearing before the House were ASPA CEO Utu Abe Malae, Power Generation Manager Ted Leiato, Transmission and Distribution Manager Sofeni Lualemaga, and CFO Susana Fai’ivae. Vice Speaker Talia I’aulualo Faafetai put it to the ASPA CEO that the boil water notice is consistently being issued. “This is a critical issue, because this has been occurring several years back and yet up to now, this problem is currently happening. “The main concern is the health of the children in schools, because they most likely consume the water within the schools, yet it’s unsafe” said Vice Speaker.He added that $12 is collected monthly from the public, mainly to assist with de-contaminating the water, yet ASPA is still requiring that the water be boiled before consuming, and this is costly for the people. Vice Speaker added that this has occurred for a very long time, these notices are issued almost every month, and this issue should have been addressed.“So now we’re not drinking ASPA water but we’re buying water, and it’s costly to people. It’s a health issue for the kids and the public”. He urged Utu to look into this very critical issue. Rep Fatulegaee Mauga, added that there should be a solution for this on-going problem, because people pay a lot for their water bill and yet they also have to buy gallons of water and this should not happen. Utu noted that the reason ASPA issues boil water notices is because of the poor quality of the water that is pumped from the ground. He explained that there are problems with water pipes underground and they are working on it. Utu said ASPA has been verbally warned by ASEPA that they must resolve the boil water notice problems, or else they will be penalized.ASPA is drilling water pipelines in other areas for other water sources of good water.Utu further thanked the USEPA and ASEPA that in 2010 more than $10million in grants had been approved for projects such as the water drilling project which benefits ASPA and the public. With this funding ASPA is able to repair the water pipes and put in new water pipelines and water pumps. Tualauta Rep. Florence Saulo asked Utu if there is any way that ASPA can assist low incomes families by reducing the many fees on the ASPA bill. The faipule said her request followed her finding out that there is a family of 11 in Mapusaga who have yet to receive electric services because they cannot afford it. Utu said the ASPA board will be holding a meeting today, where they will discuss the fees that need to be reduced. Utu asked Saulo to give them the name of the family that has no electricity and they will work something out with that family. More on the ASPA hearing in Saturday’s issue.TUALAUTA REP REMINDS VICE SPEAKER OF FINANCIAL REPORTSTualauta Faipule Larry Sanitoa, during the House regular session reminded the Vice Speaker I’aulualo Talia Faafetai of his request of January 29, 2013 for several financial reports. He noted that given the three-week recess the Fono will undergo starting next week Monday, he’s hoping to obtain those financial reports before the recess.Sanitoa requested the financial report on the ASG 2012 Financial Statement, the $20million retirement loan report and the latest expenditures, the 2012-2013 Preliminary 1st Quarter Financial Report for the government and the legislature, and the general fund revenue report for the Treasury from October 1, 2012 to December 31, 2012. DOE PROPOSES IMPROVEMENT PLAN, TEACHER RECLASSIFICATIONThe House Committee on Education and Scholarships was informed about DOE's proposed school improvement plan which includes teacher reclassification and incentives.The plan was made known by Director of Education Vaitinasa Dr. Salu Hunkin Finau last month.According to information presented to House members, efforts are in progress to work closely with ASCC to develop a strong K-6 teacher education program that not only stresses pedagogy, but provides a strong platform of content area knowledge. Within four years, DOE anticipates to have a cadre of fully qualified prospective teachers.In addition, the UH College of Education has been requested to design a program with a strong emphasis on content knowledge, while providing the educational methodologies needed for effective teaching for grades 7-12.Each year, approximately 25 teachers enter the UH Cohort program and currently, there are 100 students in four cohorts working towards their bachelors degrees. The desired outcome is to provide every classroom with a fully qualified teacher.Meanwhile, DOE has implemented a comprehensive longitudinal student system that will allow collection of all student data into one system which will allow DOE to serve as the database for student demographics, records, and scores; analyze data as a basis for evaluation of all educational improvement efforts; and evaluate student achievement, program implementation and data over time to see trends and issues in relation to academic achievement, and student population and behavior.Work is on the way to reclassify teachers based on course work and completed credentials. DOE will be providing both Gov. Lolo Moliga and Lt. Gov. Lemanu Mauga with a new teacher reclassification plan in the coming months.A teacher incentive program is also proposed, which will reward excellence in the classroom and allow fully qualified teachers to remain there. In addition, a non-teacher incentive program for educational support staff will be proposed to support their return to the classroom. Applying for federal funds to partially cover these efforts is anticipated.As for facilities, DOE received ARRA funds which allowed them to renovate many of the school facilities but “these efforts have in no way met our entire needs.” There is a current effort being completed by a cadre of engineers from DOI to assess every educational building. This effort will allow them to build a database of school facility needs and provide the evidence necessary to request additional funds from the appropriate federal agencies.DOE MAINTENANCE AND JANITORIAL STAFFRep. Puletuimalo Koko wants DOE director Vaitinasa Dr. Salu Hunkin Finau to look into the standards of the maintenance and janitorial crews working at different schools across the territory. He said these are positions that are often overlooked and looked down on, but their roles in keeping the facilities clean and safe for the territory's school kids are just as important as teaching in the classroom. The Fofo faipule said the heads of these divisions need to be questioned and changes need to be made.Rep. Florence Vaili Saulo echoed the same sentiment, saying there are major problems with sanitation on the campuses of schools in Tualauta County, especially Tafuna High School where the bathrooms are unsanitary and fights often break out.