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Sunday, April 20, 2014

PSS cuts staff travel, limits student participation in competitions

The Public School System has cut down the travel of its officials and personnel and limited its expenditure for student competitions this school year primarily due to the meager budget approved for schools this fiscal year.

Education Commissioner Rita A. Sablan, Ed.D., said that PSS has reduced by half its expenses on official travel of officials and representatives—both inter-island and off-island—to save on cost.

“Since last year, we cut our travels by 50 percent because we do a lot of Webinars [online seminars] here. Unless we are asked on specific meetings, we usually just bring the consultants here than for us to travel. That way we can reduce our expenses and realize some savings that we can use to provide additional aid in our schools,” Sablan told Saipan Tribune prior to her trip to Washington, D.C. to lobby for Commonwealth schools.

Sablan also announced that starting this year, PSS would only shoulder the expenses of top student competitors in both regional and national competitions. Among these competitions are the spelling bee, mock trial, forensic leagues, and thespian festival, among others.

As an example, if there are 10 students from a certain school who participated in the Chamorro competition at the school-wide level, only the top winners—maybe the first to third placers—can obtain full travel assistance from PSS. The other winners who wish to join regional and national contests will be asked to pay for their own expenses for airfare, food, and accommodations.

“For the regional and national student competitions, we will pay only for the top competitors. This is another area where we really need to map out carefully because we lack the resources. We don’t have monies anymore,” said Sablan.

She assured, though, that PSS will continue to send delegates to international events where public school students continue to shine and bring pride to the Commonwealth.

According to Sablan, the CNMI team that competed in the national “We the People” competition in Washington, D.C. actually used their own funds to compete last year.

According to Sablan, this fiscal year is going to be one of the most challenging years for public schools. However, she also looks at this challenge as an opportunity for the community to come together for schoolchildren.

PSS was only allocated over $30 million budget this fiscal year, of which only $1 million is appropriated for the operation of 19 campuses and Head Start centers. PSS failed to restore and hire replacements for many teaching positions as a result of the meager appropriation from the government. The teachers’ shortage had resulted in large class size ratios in many public schools on Saipan, Tinian, and Rota.

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