Governor updates Fono on DOE
Department of Education maintenance service, their federal high risk status, the scholarship program, and private schools are some of the many education issues covered by Gov. Lolo Matalasi Moliga during his address to the Fono last week.
Lolo publicly confirmed that a new division called School Facility Maintenance has been established within the Department of Public Works, and they are now responsible for the maintenance of all public school facilities.
Funds budgeted and allocated to the Department of Education for school maintenance buildings have been shifted to DPW along with all DOE maintenance employees.
“A new maintenance strategy has been established to ensure that maintenance requirements for each school are responded to without delay,” he said, and noted that traditional leaders have been employed as District Maintenance Coordinators responsible for the supervision of the highly qualified maintenance crews who shall conduct “light maintenance” for all the schools under their charge.
He said traditional leaders are also expected to mobilize the villages and the community to participate in the maintenance of their respective schools; and this is in line with the concept that “it takes the entire village to educate a child”.
“It is no longer acceptable to leave the business of educating our children solely to the Department of Education,” he said. “All of us must do our part to educate the children of American Samoa.”
In order to implement this new strategy, public schools have been divided into six School Maintenance Districts, inclusive of Manu’a. The traditional leaders head each district.
As reported by Samoa News last November, Lolo’s move to transfer school maintenance to DPW was first revealed last year, but was expedited during the summer when the Department of Health found several school facilities in deplorable condition, which resulted in a two-week delay in the start of the new school year for schools on Tutuila.
“The idea is to have a technical team of certified plumbers, electricians and other personnel available to be dispatched immediately to any request from each district,” the governor’s executive assistant Iulogologo Joseph Pereira told Samoa News last year. (See Nov. 18 Samoa News edition for more details.)
Lolo also told lawmakers last week he is looking at transferring the school bus maintenance from DOE to DPW. “Taking these maintenance duties out of DOE will allow the DOE to focus more attention on educating students,” he said.
Regarding the DOE “high risk” status, Lolo said the ASG High Risk Task Force, which was established last year, has submitted all outstanding reports due to the U.S. Department of Education, whose officials were on island last September to review the progress of the mitigation tasks assigned for completion.
At the completion of the review, the USDOE officials highly commended the local DOE and the Task Force for their extensive progress towards removing “high risk” designation, he said, adding the task force is working to prevent any replication of practices that are in violation of federal grantor policies and procedures.
“We have created a program assessment function to collect, integrate, and analyze grantee-generated reporting, grant monitoring documentation, performance measurement data, and other primary data sources to assess program performance and grantee compliance for future policy, budget, and funding decisions,” he said.
According to the governor, the newly reconstituted ASG Scholarship Board, whose members were endorsed by the Fono last year, was directed to evaluate the sufficiency of the scholarship award amounts and to develop new scholarship award procedures dictated by the defined priorities of ASG. However, he noted this mandate has not been attained.
The Governor said the board “will be urged to complete this assessment because our scholarship recipients have lamented the insufficiency of the current level of scholarships.” He also noted the board will be directed to revise the eligibility policies and procedures for the Scholarship Loan Program.
“It is recommended that the official acceptance at an accredited institution of higher learning be the dominant eligibility criteria and not the established 3.0 grade point average,” he said. “It is important for us to provide every opportunity for our high school graduates to attend college to earn at least their Bachelor degrees because the number of available jobs requiring bachelor’s degrees is rising exponentially.”
The governor says not all children are educated in public schools, hence there has to be closer articulation of “our programs with all the private schools”.
Therefore, he said, the DOE director has been instructed to streamline the process connected with the approval of expenditure requests from private schools for federal grants awarded to them, to ensure that their needs and programs are met in a timely manner.
“I have also informed the Director to hold regular meetings with all the private schools to ensure that the government is providing efficient and effective assistance, and to ensure that they receive the same level of quality education,” he said.
Since taking over as governor, Lolo has made it a point to include private schools in the activities of government. For example, the Adopt-A-School initiative in which ASG departments and agencies are assigned to help clean and support public schools includes private schools.