The Public School System filled a significant number of teaching positions this school year thanks to the regular grants it receives from the federal government.
PSS federal programs officer Tim Thornburgh disclosed to Saipan Tribune that a total of 68 teachers were successfully hired by PSS in school year 2012-2013 utilizing portions of the yearly consolidated grants for PSS.
He said 38 teaching posts were filled by the system under the class size reduction item and 30 posts from the Title I item. Both funds are part of the $8.4 million in consolidated grant approved for CNMI-PSS this fiscal year.
Thornburgh said it is his office's goal to hire as many as it could-using federal monies-to supplement the system's shortfall in the local side.
Besides the consolidated grant from the federal government, PSS also received a grant for its special education program where there are an estimated 40 teachers hired and paid by the grant.
According to PSS human resources director Coreen Palacios, there are only a little over 400 teachers employed by PSS on Saipan, Tinian, and Rota. Of the count, 68 are funded by consolidated grants, while the rest are being paid by other special grants and local appropriation for schools.
She said that due to lack of funds for recruitment, many positions remain frozen including teachers, vice principals, and other posts. Though there are some job announcements made, these are for replacement positions only.
In a visit to her office, Education Commissioner Rita A. Sablan, Ed.D, said PSS still needs teachers in every school to rectify the overcrowding and large class sizes in almost every school. However, she admitted that filling these needed positions is impossible without certified funds for the purpose.
She cited as an example the large class sizes at Garapan Elementary School where there are an average of 32 students per classroom from Grades 3 to 6. The size, she claimed, is “unacceptable.” Other schools, she said, had even larger class sizes due to lack of teachers.
“We ask our teachers to continue to work with the large class sizes because that's all we can do for now, unless we get an extra $3 million (to hire additional teachers),” Sablan told Saipan Tribune, adding that despite the continuous increase in enrollment every year the schools' budget has been decreasing.
In previous school years, the system had over 500 or nearly 600 teachers in its 19 campuses compared to only a little over 400 teachers this school year.
With the new Legislature, Sablan is hopeful that a realistic budget will be formulated for PSS' operations.