After more than two hours of closed-door deliberation yesterday, the State Board of Education unanimously approved a new four-year employment contract for Dr. Rita A. Sablan to continue as the Public School System's chief executive officer.
Sablan's new contract will expire in August 2016 with the condition that she would be evaluated on the first year using the board's newly established evaluation tool for the commissioner of education post.
Board chair Marylou S. Ada said the decision was reached after determining that Sablan met with flying colors all the expectations set by the board in her first contract.
She disclosed that the commissioner will continue receiving an annual wage of $80,000 subject to any adjustment that the board may take during the contract period. Sablan was hired in 2008 and upon appointment each board member laid out their expectations for the COE to meet.
In the aspect of students' achievement alone, the chairwoman cited the overwhelming success of PSS based on both SAT-10 and SBA tests results the last four years.
Ada also noted the launching of several school programs and initiatives, effective and advanced curriculums, the aggressive efforts in securing federal awards, and the establishment of greater collaboration and partnership with parents and students through Sablan's youth advisory panel and the parents and teachers advisory councils.
Also notable among Sablan's achievements as commissioner is the PSS' compliance with the federal mandate to have all its classrooms equipped with highly qualified and effective teachers. Since 2011, PSS has been operating with all teachers and administrators highly qualified pursuant to the requirements set by the board.
In the new contract, the board assigned new expectations for the education commissioner to meet within the contract period. All these, according to Ada, are aimed to further improve the educational system on the island.
The education commissioner's contract renewal was delayed for some weeks pending the board's adoption of the evaluation tool. It is the stand of the board that like the system's staff and teachers, the education commissioner also has to go through an evaluation process upon renewal of contract.
Sablan, in a separate interview after yesterday's meeting, admitted that she was feeling “very positive” as soon as she entered and faced the board in the closed-door meeting. This, she said, was because she believes that she performed to the best of her abilities and had satisfied the board's expectations.
Sablan promised to continue PSS' growth and success, especially in terms of students' achievements.
Ready for all the possible queries of the board, Saipan Tribune learned that Sablan provided members a detailed report about her performance in line with the expectations set by the board.
According to Sablan, what the school district has achieved in past four years reflect how it continues to implement and pursue its five-point agenda that sets PSS' direction for growth-the Strategic Priorities Plus One.
This consists of high student performance, highly qualified and effective personnel, effective and efficient operation,; safe and orderly school campus, and the parental engagement and community partnership.
Based on PSS data presented to the board yesterday, student performances in SAT-10 continue to increase in the past six school years.
It was, however, in the last four years that the result had a remarkable up-tick. The SAT-10 result for Grade 3 climbed in 2008 at 40 percentile recovering from a slight decrease in 2007. By 2012, Grade 3 level was performing well by attaining an overall 32 percentile rank, but only reflecting a one-point drop from 2011's 33 percentile. For Grade 5, it held a steady growth for three consecutive years from 2007 to 2009 at 37 percentile. By 2011, the level was all time high at 43 percentile and just slightly reduced at 42 percentile. These grade levels, and others, have all shown consistent growth each year, based on the comprehensive report presented to the board yesterday. SAT-10 is considered a system-wide norm reference test conducted for Grades 3, 5, 6, 8, 9, and 11.
For SBA, or the standard based assessment, data shows increases in the percentage of benchmarks proficient or above in the last three years from 2009 to 2012.
In reading, Grade 3 showed a steady increase at 40 percent and rose by 5 percent, to register a 45-percent proficiency. Grade 4's benchmark proficiency was already high at 47 percent in 2009 to 53 percent at present.
In Math, most grades tested remained constant and or have increased from 2010 to 2011.
HQT, graduation rate
According to Sablan, all teaching personnel of PSS have passed both Praxis tests and have earned degrees and certification requirements. At present, there are 29 highly qualified administrators; 460 highly qualified teachers; and 18 highly qualified counselors.
Graduation rates also showed steady progress from 96 percent in 2009; 97 percent in 2010; 93 percent in 2011; and 97 percent in 2012.
The number of high school graduates who pursue college also increased: 49 percent in 2009; 55 percent in 2010; 71 percent in 2011; and 56 percent in 2012.
44 school infrastructure developed
The commissioner also reported to the board yesterday that PSS has developed a total of 44 infrastructure and improvement projects for schools on Saipan, Tinian, and Rota islands. It also renovated and modernized campuses using the state fiscal stabilization fund awarded in 2009.
Sablan also cited the launching of green energy projects and the introduction of more technology innovations in schools and offices, including the One Laptop Per Child policy. Anti-bullying campaigns have also been intensified and the professional development and trainings for employees and staff expanded to ensure effective and efficient operations of schools.
It was also during Sablan's leadership that a five-year financial master plan was initiated for PSS.