The Guam Daily Post

12 23Fri11272015


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Jon Fernandez as GDOE’s new superintendent

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Buenas yan Hafa Adai!

Please join me in welcoming Jon Fernandez as the Guam Department of Education’s new superintendent.

DOE has the largest government workforce with more than 3,000 employees and receives the lion’s share of the GovGuam budget – about 40 percent – but even with these numbers, our public schools continue to face serious challenges and the daily stresses and difficulties our principals and teachers experience of running a school is shocking.

Superintendents remain for about five years, on average, but this is not the case here. Many leave sooner.

A revolving door of superintendents at GDOE shortchanges the school system that needs sustained leadership to put educational reforms in place.

Add to this, the pressure will be placed on Jon, since he will be the public face of education, responsible for thousands of kids’ successes or failures.

In this job, criticism is high; job security is low because the superintendent serves at the will of the board. No wonder superintendents move on or choose a job in the private sector. It’s a thankless job.

I’d like to thank Taling Taitano, who has held down the fort with grace and poise in the midst of the closing of Untalan Middle School, the issues involving JFK’s unfinished construction, and having to deal with the withholding of the 15 percent reserve on GDOE’s budget. Thank you Taling for your service to our public schools.

We would all like to see GDOE make giant strides in the direction of what is needed to turn around Guam’s education, which ranks at or near the bottom in most educational measures.

We would all like to see sweeping reforms such as the building of new schools, innovative charter schools, successful academic programs, and higher test scores.

But these changes are not going to happen overnight. It’s going to take hard work and discipline, attributes that I believe Jon possess. But most especially, it’s going to take time ... time to change decades of the same way of doing “business as usual” at GDOE.

I’d like to challenge all GDOE employees to rise to the occasion and work with their new superintendent to create a culture of learning within the entire school district that would be supportive of all.

GDOE needs good role models who can demonstrate behavior that would help children to learn more than just academic subjects. Let us start with this.

A superintendent should be innovative and energetic, and be recognized as a leader who gets everyone to move in the same direction. My hope is that Jon will set the tone and send out a clear message to all GDOE employees. This message must be clear and it must be consistent so that everybody, up and down the ladder, knows the message and will leave no room for doubt.

I support Jon and I will support the management team he will choose to lead GDOE to success.

Jon, our island community, but most especially our parents and children, eagerly await your arrival as you roll up your sleeves and hit the ground running. Good luck!