Marianas Variety Guam Edition – The Local and Regional Newspaper

12 23Thu04242014

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Back Letter to the Editor Redefining community for educational success

Redefining community for educational success

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THE recent establishment of the Educational Learning Task Force brings together a cross-section of our island community, providing a sturdier foundation for collaboration and planning among educational stakeholders. I view this formation as a sincere bipartisan attempt at ensuring that public education succeeds through the sharing of inter-department resources and the elimination of apparent redundancies and waste throughout GDOE. For certain, a wider lens of varied perspectives is needed in identifying the corrosive elements that continue to delay the application of the most effective forms of pedagogy and academic success within our classrooms. 

One of the major responsibilities confronting this new task force is the development of plans for greater access and utilization of public school facilities by parents, business people, and non-profits during after-school hours. Although this concept is seemingly unique, it appropriately falls in line with what Secretary of Education Arne Duncan and President Obama see as the evolution of traditional schools into a new form of “Community Centers.”

The task force has also been challenged with planning for the renovation, refitting and rebuilding of existing schools, and the construction of new ones throughout the island. Although these ideas are excellent and necessary, answers to the obvious questions on funding, timing and scope remain unclear. For those existing schools targeted to become school community centers, the additional maintenance, utility usage, security and administration are areas of major concern that will magnify the already debt-laden condition of GDOE. Logically, the renovation and rejuvenation of schools must take precedence since safety has been shown to be a paramount concern, evidenced through the closure of several schools in recent years. 

As an educator and parent of six children enrolled in GDOE, I have envisioned a more realistic plan that places parental involvement ahead of full-scale school community centers. Even after several decades of workshops, conferences and community meetings, GDOE has yet to apply real solutions toward this issue. If the word “community” entails that we motivate parents to participate in and build upon academic success, then GovGuam must be poised to entertain sweeping and dramatic policies for educational change.

My vision of academic success through greater parental involvement is based on the cooperation of specific government agencies, including GCC, UOG, DPHSS, and GHURA. Such a concept would be effective but unpopular, requiring greater commitment to the ideals of education by struggling families. As an example, all public assistance such as welfare, housing or food stamps would be reduced or terminated from recipients if reported grades of their children fall below a “C” average. Also, the same penalties may be assessed for parents under public assistance who fail to provide a set number of volunteer hours at schools, libraries, workshops, and seminars, or enroll in night classes or tutoring sessions. These greater social expectations can also be expanded to force parents to obtain an adult high school diploma to secure substitute-teacher jobs at their children’s schools, or complete a teaching degree or certification in order to serve an appropriate school community. 

Under a pilot program, GDOE can allow teachers from certain school sites the opportunity to teach parents of their specific school-community, providing necessary skills required within their own regular-day classrooms. However, they would be paid as adult-education or foundational content-area teachers through GCC or UOG. In this way, school communities can begin to move together toward a higher standard of living, accomplishment and success in a safe and familiar environment.

These are the “hard” ways in which we can truly define school communities in the context of developing success and a brighter future for all. Millard fuller once said, “For a community to be whole and healthy, it must be based on people’s love and concern for each other.” As a small island community, “win-win” change scenarios will always be better than the political objectives that presently rob us socially, and education-wise.

Elwin Champaco Quitano,
Dededo

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