Senator Nua seeks an action plan for Manu'a schools
Manu’a Sen. Nua T. Saoluaga is seeking from the local Department of Education an action plan and progress report on the many problems faced by schools in Manu’a, saying that many of these problems have not been addressed for years.
“In the 80s and early 90s, the education system in Manu’a was in a better place than it is now,” Nua wrote in a letter this week to ASDOE director Vaitinasa Dr. Salu Hunkin-Finau and copies were sent to other DOE officials as well as to the governor’s office.
“...the shortage of teachers and their inadequate staffing is a cause of concern because of course, then the quality of education the students deserve diminishes greatly,” said Nua’s letter, which focused mainly on the schools on Ta’u island.
For example, he noted that Faleasao Elementary School began the current school year with the absence of two teachers — although there were replacements. But the school has been without three teachers at the same time, according to the senator.
Currently, the school is missing one teacher where the principal is filling in as substitute. “This is alarming because now the leadership, its main office and its duties are manned by the school’s librarian who is also counselor and vice principal,” he said.
Nua, who is also the Senate ProTemp, says he feels the existing set-up places Faleasao elementary and its students “in a vulnerable position that may ultimately compromise quality and effective classroom instruction.”
Moreover, Nua was informed that Manu’a resident teachers mostly fill teaching positions in the island group; and often these positions are advertised for Manu’a teachers. Nua says DOE should not rely on this practice to fill teaching posts in Manu’a and suggested that teachers from Tutuila be “assigned” to Manu’a — similar to teachers on Tutuila being assigned throughout the main island of Tutuila.
“Proper arrangements and ideal package incentives must be in place to satisfy each assignment,” Nua recommends. “Consider the areas of Math and Science as critical placements, if not already filled.”
He also raised the issue of teacher stipends and sought a clarification when it comes to Tutuila resident teachers. He said it was brought to his attention that “stipends are available only to Tutuila resident teachers who are ‘transferred’ to Manu’a.”
“It is my understanding that the stipend is available to all Tutuila resident teachers. This needs to be clarified so that Tutuila resident teachers who wish to be assigned to Manu’a do not get discouraged to do so,” he said.
At Manu’a High School, Nua said, students have voiced their concern with the lack of elective courses available and instead of choosing their “electives” they are assigned speech, criminal justice, business or accounting.
“There are no vocational electives such as shop, agriculture or family consumer science,” he said and pointed out that school supplies are “much needed” for some of the core subjects particularly, Science. He also forwarded to DOE the high school’s Science equipment order list from school year 2011-2012, which has not yet been addressed.
“As you know, these supplies are needed to enhance the learning process of each student,” he wrote. “Again, emphasizing the need to better prepare, educate and improve our students in the areas of Math and Science.”
SCHOOL BUILDING CONDITIONS
“...current condition of school buildings, facilities and housing are heartbreaking,” Nua pointed out. “Classroom windows do not have screens — allowing wasps, mosquitos and even cats to get in, disturbing classroom instruction.”
Moreover, the students complain of broken fans and air-conditioning units in classrooms that make for a “hot learning environment”.
He also says that dilapidated DOE housing units for teachers from Tutuila are in need of repair, adding that it would be beneficial and cost saving for DOE if these houses were in good condition. “The houses flood each time the shower is turned on and there are problems with the lights,” he said.
Speaking before the Fono last month, Gov. Lolo Matalasi Moliga said he intended to issue instructions to directors of DOE and Public Works to prepare a transition plan facilitating the transfer of all classroom and educational facility maintenance to DPW.
He said this will allow DOE to “dedicate all its energy on the business of educating our children.”
During her confirmation hearing last month before the Senate and House committees, Vaitinasa informed the legislature that DOE has only $500,000 in the FY 2013 budget to cover all maintenance, transportation and non-personnel costs — and that budget was exhausted in the first quarter (Oct. 1-Dec. 31, 2012).
She said DOE has schools in need of major maintenance but it does not have the funds to remedy the issues.
In tomorrow’s edition, other issues raised by Nua will be covered, including a sports program for Manu’a schools.