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DOE responds to claims of ‘nepotism’ in hiring at NVTHS

ASDOE director, Dr. Ruth Matagi-Tofiga

Pago Pago, AMERICAN SAMOA — The hiring of a new vice principal for Nuuuli Vo Tech High School (NVTHS) has led to a local school teacher screaming ‘nepotism’. That’s because the new VP is Fesilafa’i Matagi, the brother of ASDOE director, Dr. Ruth Matagi-Tofiga.

The teacher, Sam Nuusolia, is a master’s degree holder who moved back to the territory in 2012 and has been teaching in the local public school system for years. According to him, the minimum qualifications for the VP post — as noted by ASDOE — require the candidate to have a master’s degree in educational leadership or related field, at least 7 years of teaching experience, and 3 or more years in a supervisory position.

Nuusolia provided Samoa News with a copy of the guidelines for the position, which notes that applicants “MUST first meet the required qualifications prior to applying, otherwise the application will not be considered.” The application deadline was Friday. Sept. 27, 2019.

“How did one BA degree instructor have the opportunity to submit his package and other BA instructors didn’t?” Nuusolia asks. He also wonders why the head of the DOE Human Resources division was not included as a panelist in the hiring of the NVTHS vice principal.

Someone from HR “should always be a member, to ensure fairness within the board, especially a position of this level,” Nuusolia said. He referred to the part of the application guidelines with the word “MUST” and asked, “Are we all misinterpreting this” or does DOE have “its own definition of what this [word] means? Or did DOE just ignore that part for Matagi?”

Nuusolia told Samoa News that he is “tired of people saying it's been this way and it will never change.” He continued, “If we keep sitting on the sidelines and just ignore the process of wrongdoing, then it will continue to follow the next generation.

“We’ve been saying this for so long… it is almost an inherited gene that's being passed down to every generation. But, this is a learned trait that has a cure…”


When contacted for comments, Dr. Matagi-Tofiga said the matter was brought to her attention and she was asked [by Nuusolia] if it was fair to have her brother considered over another candidate, as her brother does not hold an advance degree, but the other candidate does.

Furthermore, according to her, she was told that her brother should never have been considered, because of her position as DOE director. “It is unfair if you feel someone related to me should not be given the opportunity to apply and go through the process,” is what Dr. Matagi-Tofiga said her response was to Nuusolia.

She said she told Nuusolia that he has a right to his opinion, “but be cautious that what you profess does not slander people's reputation because this could elevate to a defamation of character lawsuit.”


Dr. Samasoni Asaeli, DOE’s Assistant Director of Secondary Division explained that all vacant positions (school counselors, vice principals, principals, program directors, and assistant directors) are advertised to give all DOE employees the chance to apply.

He said all applications are submitted to the DOE personnel office and from there, interviews — conducted by a selected panel — are scheduled. 

According to Dr. Asaeli, selecting the best applicant to fill the position is based on three criteria:

  • Credentials - 20 pts,
  • Experience & Resume - 30 pts, and
  • Interview - 50 pts.

“The interview criterion has more points because this is where the panel will be able to find out more about the interviewee, his or her experience, leadership and managerial skills possessed, capacity to lead (based on responses), leadership philosophy and beliefs, experience with the accreditation process, and a host of other matters related to leadership at the high school level,” Dr. Asaeli explained.

Points awarded are at the discretion of each panel member, based on a combination of factors including educational credentials, experience, and responses to questions asked. “So, whichever candidate tallies the most combined points” from all panel members, that’s who is recommended to the DOE Director for her review — and approval — to fill the vacant position.

Samoa News understands that for the NVTHS VP position, three people applied but only two showed up for the interviews, Fesilafai Matagi was one of them.

“Mr. Matagi went through the process and was selected based on points earned on the three criteria mentioned,” said Dr. Asaeli. “There was no favoritism or preferential treatment in the decision made. He was given a fair opportunity, as with the other candidate, to prove himself worthy of the position and the panel agreed, based on the set criteria. Essentially, he was selected, not appointed, as claimed.”

In response to questions raised about why DOE’s head of Human Resources, Dr. Sheri Vasai-Taase was not part of the selection panel, Dr. Asaeli explained that while Dr. Vasai-Taase was “very much a part” of the selection process, the main people who should be on the interview panel are “the overseeing deputy director and division personnel of where the vacant position is… The main thing is that representatives of the division with the vacant position must be involved, as they are the ones who'll be working with whomever is selected.”

For example, “if a vacant position is a vice principal at the high school level, the deputy director of instructional services, assistant director of the secondary division, and/or program directors are involved in the selection/interview panel.” He continued, “There is no set number of panelists, and it is not a requirement to have a person from the personnel office… on the panel.”

Samoa News understands that Dr. Asaeli has voiced his ‘disappointment’ to Nuusolia about how everything has been handled.

Nuusolia confronting VP Matagi in front of the principal and students “was outright unprofessional” and showed “insubordination on his part,” Dr. Asaeli told Samoa News.

“There are proper protocols to follow to voice” concerns with the principal, he added. “My concern is, what kind of silent message are we sending students, especially when they are not happy with a decision or person? There are proper and more civilized ways of handling situations like this.”

For now, Nuusolia has been served a letter, with a warning to refrain from being ‘insubordinate’ and ‘unprofessional’ in the workplace. “There are protocols, as well as policies and procedures in place, on how to handle different matters that arise and to hold everyone in the workplace accountable,” Dr. Asaeli concluded.


According to Nuusolia, last week, he requested a transfer and now he’s at Samoana HS. He said he wanted to stay at NVTHS but didn’t want to be in an unhealthy environment.

Nuusolia said he gave the DOE higher ups an ultimatum but it was not approved.

“Knowing what — and how — one received a promotion over other qualified candidates, I cannot condone or support such individual,” he said.

Nuusolia taught electrical wiring courses and consumer math. With him now gone from NVTHS, over 50 students “will miss out,” he said. “These so-called leaders really only thought of themselves, not the students and their parents.”


Samoa News should point out that Mr. Sam Nuusolia was not one of the applicants for the position in question.

Further, while a point system was used to select the ‘best’ applicant for the position, it should be noted that prior to the point system coming into play, one of the minimum qualifications for the VP position is that an applicant “MUST first meet … prior to applying” and before their application can even be considered is a Masters Degree in Education or a related field. Mr. Fesilafa’i Matagi allegedly does not hold a masters degree.