More than $140K included in the DOE budget to increase pay for senior personnel
Pago Pago, AMERICAN SAMOA — More than $140,000 is included in the local Department of Education’s FY 2020 budget to fund salary hikes for principals, vice principals, program directors, and assistant directors - all of whom have not received pay reclassifications until now - according to ASDOE director Dr. Ruth Matagi-Tofiga, during her department’s budget hearing last Wednesday.
She informed the Fono Joint Budget Committee that reclassification of teachers has already been done and implemented a while back, but not principals, vice principals, program directors, and assistant directors.
Matagi-Tofiga expressed appreciation to the governor and Budget Office for the additional funding to cover the pay increase for these ASDOE senior personnel whose salary hikes are covered with local funds.
ASDOE’s proposal FY 2020 budget totals $72.75 million - to be funded with $20.54 million in local funds and $52.21 million in federal grants. Matagi-Tofiga said there’s a reduction in local funding for the new fiscal year, as some of those positions are now funded by grants.
STATUS OF TEACHERS
Responding to questions on whether there’s a teacher shortage, with the new school year kicking off last week Tuesday, the director explained that it has been a common trend over the years, that during the school year teachers resign and ASDOE works quickly to fill those vacancies.
She explained that an “emergency hire” request has been approved, making it possible to hire 16 new teachers. If teachers resign, in the middle of the school year, the department has a plan already in place, in which program directors, principals, vice principals, and counselors will be assigned to man classrooms.
“All of us have been classroom teachers before reaching our current positions,” she told the committee.
The director said DOE would process paperwork when anniversary dates of the employees draw near. She agreed with concerns raised by some lawmakers that increments should be processed and paid.
However, she pointed out that increments are not automatic, as there’s an evaluation to be carried out first. And if the employee is eligible, then it should be paid, she added.
Committee co-chair Sen. Magalei Logovi’i informed the director that he has been told that only employees paid by grants are getting increments, and not those whose positions are funded by local money.
SCHOOL BUILDINGS AND BREAK-INS
Responding to questions about new school buildings, Matagi-Tofiga said some of them will either be open soon or have already opened, so students can use them, instead of waiting for an official dedication.
She said as long as the Certificate of Occupancy, issued by Public Works, is issued, the building will be utilized - such as the ones at Matafao Elementary and Fagaitua HS.
She then issued a verbal request to lawmakers and the community at large, “please” keep watch on schools that are located in villages, especially after-hours and the weekend. She said the government does all possible to keep the buildings clean and repaired, but some have been damaged due to break-ins and vandalism.
She expressed appreciation to villages who have taken up the task of keeping an eye on schools within their villages, and said ASDOE depends on the village councils for support and help in watching the schools - especially after hours.
Sen. Satele Galu Satele Sr. suggested that ASDOE look at hiring security for after hours. He pointed to buildings at Leone HS that have been vandalized and damaged not only by possible culprits from his village of Vailoatai, but perhaps other nearby villages too.
He revealed that the Vailoatai village council has set a rule to impose punishment on the student-culprit and his/her family if found to be involved in any such incidents.
“Look at the possible hiring of security with its own budget,” he informed the director, who responded, that if the Fono wants to include funding for such purpose in the FY 2020 budget, that is great and the department will move on it.
Sen. Tuaolo Manaia Fruean said the Pago Pago Village Council is very concerned and not pleased with the recent break-in and vandalism over the Labor Day weekend at Peter Coleman Elementary School.
Tuaolo said he and the village council will not rest in trying to find those responsible. He said the cultript and their families will face consequences imposed by the village council once they are identified.
Matagi-Tofiga said there are currently 13 buses in the fleet and four new ones are expected to arrive next month, thanks to funding through the US Department of Interior.