A longtime educator wants to make a difference on the lives of Commonwealth students, a prime motivation that led to his decision to run for a seat at the CNMI State Board of Education.
Victorino S. Cepeda, 70, is the education director of the Northern Marianas Trade Institute. In a visit to his office Friday, he shared with Saipan Tribune what he wants to accomplish in the education sector if given the opportunity to serve it.
Top on his list is to curb the continuing involvement of many high school students in drug activities, which he described as not only rampant, but alarming without citing statistics.
Cepeda claimed that despite the existence of school policies on drugs and related activities, there's a need for “serious” enforcement not only on the part of the Public School System but through improved collaboration with parents.
“I know BOE and PSS can still do better to solve this problem.and I want to take part on their efforts. Some may not agree on what I observed [about rampant drug use], but I know it's becoming a big problem now because I have seen and witnessed such incidents in many occasions. And it makes me sad,” he told Saipan Tribune, adding that schools have an important role to play in honing the character and attitude of students.
Cepeda has yet to say the kind of policy he may introduce to the board that will help address the problem. He is just convinced that he can help.
Cepeda is the first individual who filed his candidacy for BOE seat on Saipan, which has two vacant positions. He will run against incumbent chair Marylou Ada and former college dean Janice Tenorio.
When asked what makes him a good candidate for the post, Cepeda cited his “sincerity” and “great interest” to help students.
Besides addressing the students' involvement in drugs, Cepeda also cited among his priorities the practice of “real transparency” on the education board and the PSS management.
Expansion of vocational career options, he added, is also among his priorities.
Cepeda has served the public schools for 27 years from 1961 to 1988. He rose from the ranks-from classroom teacher, to vice principal, and principal. Among the schools he served are Oleai Elementary School, the former Chalan Kanoa Elementary School, and Marianas High School. He also taught students in Pagan Islands in the past.
After his tenure at PSS, Cepeda was named by former governor Larry Guerrero as director of indigenous affairs office where he served for two years.
A year later, he joined the private sector for more than seven years until he was named Mt. Carmel School principal for three years. It was in October 2008 when Cepeda was appointed as NMTI's education director, a post he currently holds.
Cepeda attended secondary education at George Washington High School in Guam and earned his education degree from Oregon College of Education. He also attended a special administration course at East West Center in Honolulu.