A ranking U.S. Department of Education official will visit the CNMI again next month to talk with Public School System and Board of Education officials on wide-ranging issues that include the possibility of securing new financial commitments and increased federal support for the local education department.
Christine Jackson, the senior risk management consultant of U.S. Education Secretary Arne Duncan, will spearhead a five-man delegation to the Marianas with the CNMI as her last stop. She will visit Guam first before making a two-day visit to Saipan. This will make it her third visit to the CNMI since 2010.
“This is part of the [U.S. DOE's] monitoring to see how we are doing and it is a chance for both PSS/BOE and the U.S. Education Department to exchange information on many areas and possibly for her to find out first hand of our progress since her last visit,” PSS federal programs officer Tim Thornburgh told Saipan Tribune Friday.
Jackson's visit is also seen as a chance to reinforce and validate the school system's need for sustained support for all its programs that are aimed at further improving the academic performance of public school students. PSS receives between $25 million and $27 million in federal grants, and it's the federal government through the U.S. DOE that mandates that they be explicitly used for programs that promote student learning.
Jackson will also tour public schools, nearly a year after they underwent massive repairs, renovations, and rehabilitation using the multimillion-dollar American Recovery and Reinvestment Act/State Fiscal Stabilization Fund.
Jackson will also tour the new PSS central office in Susupe. Late last year, as part of a massive cost-cutting effort, PSS decided to renovate the Susupe facility and part of funding used were U.S. DOE grants for the school district's pioneering systemwide utilization/implementation of energy conservation program.
“This time, it is certain that the Commissioner of Education [Dr. Rita A. Sablan] and the Board of Education will show our new central office and how we led with our energy conservation program, from our new facility down to our schools,” Thornburgh said.
It was not until three years ago when ranking U.S. DOE officials started visiting the CNMI at the invitation of Education Commissioner Rita A. Sablan.
During her September 2010 visit to Guam, Jackson met with Sablan who invited her to visit Saipan. Jackson hailed PSS as “model district” for all of the insular areas after that visit.
A year after, in July 2011, Jackson, accompanied by another ranking official, Mark Robinson, became the highest federal education official to visit Rota. During their daylong visit, Jackson and Robinson “reviewed, talked and met with public education stakeholders.”
After their visit, U.S. Assistant Secretary for Secondary Education Carl Harris echoed the same observation during his visit to Saipan and Tinian about PSS being a model district.