Several public schools in the CNMI are operating without vice principals this school year even as a number of administrators and counselors are handling regular classes-all because there is not enough money to hire more classroom teachers, according to Education Commissioner Rita A. Sablan.
School principals confirmed with Saipan Tribune yesterday the lack of vice principals and their new multi-tasking duties, describing the whole situation as “very challenging” since classes opened last month.
In a normal school setup, students receive guidance and support from school administrators-principals and vice principals-along with school counselors. Each position has specific tasks to perform for the growth and progress of students.
Sablan said that since PSS' resources became scarce, principals were given the option to choose which position needed to be filled immediately: vice principal or school counselor.
And because a teacher works directly with students, Sablan said many principals opted this school year to keep their school counselors-as they can also be teachers-while giving up their vice principal posts.
According to principals' representative for secondary schools Jonas Barcinas, most schools that have enrollments between 300 and 400 this school year have no vice principals. Among these schools are San Antonio, Tanapag, Gregorio T. Camacho, Koblerville, and Oleai elementary schools and Chacha Oceanview Junior High School, among others.
Barcinas said that funding dictates the staffing levels in every campus. He said it is through the creativity and commitment of administrators, teachers, and counselors that PSS survives.
There are also large schools that currently lack vice principals such as Saipan Southern High School with 850 students. SSHS principal Jesse Tudela told Saipan Tribune that it has been a challenge to operate the school without a vice principal. SSHS lost its vice principal to Hopwood Junior High School, which has over 1,000 enrollees.
“Coordination among staff, teachers, and students has been a challenge since we opened classes a month ago. Yes, we do have counselors but with the situation we have now, it's really difficult. Our three school counselors are also teaching classes while I am assisting and substituting,” said Tudela.
He hopes that at least one vice principal will be hired soon for SSHS.
Other big schools such as Marianas High School has three vice principals.
Commissioner Sablan said that with an enrollment of over 1,400 students, all MHS administrators and counselors are also teaching classes to address the shortage of instructors, said Sablan.
Kagman High School has two vice principals and counselors that are also teaching classes.
“I visited MHS this week and of course, I couldn't see the principal [Cherlyn Cabrera] because she's out there substituting [in classes]. So I go on with my work without meeting the administrator because she's doing it for the students,” said Sablan, citing the same situation at Garapan Elementary School .
According to Sablan, “Lucky are those schools that have not lost their VPs.because when you lose your vice principal, we really don't replace them because we're short of funding.”
PSS was allocated $3 million short of the $33 million it asked for this fiscal year. It was learned that 45 FTEs for teachers were not restored this fiscal year because of this.
Chacha Oceanview Junior High principal Vince Cruz told Saipan Tribune that his campus is also functioning without a vice principal after the individual transferred to Kagman Elementary School, the first to suffer from double-sessions this school year. Like other administrators, Cruz said substituting in classes is now a normal part of his duties.