Individuals and government agencies and instrumentalities will be honored today in a joint Board of Education-Public School System ceremony that will mark their significant contributions in the movement of public education in the Commonwealth.
The last 25 years saw both an unending and uneven march toward transition and growth of public education—a storied past that was succeeded by a new era of innovation and modernization into what it is today: the Public School System.
A monthlong celebration will begin today marking the 25 years of the establishment of public education in the CNMI through the creation of the Board of Education with the enactment of Public Law 6-10 on Oct. 25, 1988. The BOE is the governing and policymaking body of PSS.
This is a historic-first awards ceremony that will highlight the distinguished contributions of two former governors, the Executive Branch, the Legislature, the Judiciary, past members of the Board of Education, and commissioners of education/education superintendents, and different island municipalities. These individuals, agencies, and instrumentalities have placed their entire weight and focus on public education’s success.
With the theme, “25 Years of Public Education: Embracing Differences, Enlightening Minds and Inspiring Greatness,” today’s ceremony will begin with the signing of a proclamation that will also declare October as Education Month.
The event will be held at the state BOE’s conference room in Susupe.
From temporary structures made of wooden frames, screened windows, and corrugated metal siding and roofing, and from a handful of schools in existence at that time—Chalan Kanoa (now WSR Elementary School) and Hopwood Jr. High School, both in 1947; Oleai in 1958; San Antonio in 1966, Marianas High School in 1969, and Koblerville in 1986—public education today is a changed landscape with 20 public school campuses spread throughout Saipan, Tinian, and Rota.
Growth and progress paved the way for the replacement of these composite structures. Concrete walls, louvered windows and shingle roof structures slowly gave way to larger, solid, and modern facilities.
The CNMI’s public education’s has a wealth of storied struggles, but there is little documentation of its past and what is available is kept as archival evidence at the University of Hawaii at Manoa’s Trust Territory of the Pacific Islands Collection.
Known evidence cites the year from 1947 to 1988 when public education in the Northern Marianas began transitioning.
The departure of the U.S. Naval government and the Central Intelligence Agency covert operation from the Marianas in 1961 ushered in an era of change under the Department of the Interior’s stewardship. Social and political development would begin in earnest under the United Nations-mandated Trust Territory of the Pacific Islands, which included the Northern Mariana Islands.
According to the Trust Territory of the Pacific Islands Collection, the CNMI became a United States-administered U.N. strategic trusteeship following the Second World War. This arrangement was named the Trust Territory of the Pacific Islands or TTPI.
It was in the 1970s when the districts began voting to end the trustee relationship with the U.S. In 1986 the U.S. notified the U.N. that its obligations were fulfilled. The U.N. officially dissolved the Trust Territory in 1990.
The Commonwealth of the Northern Marianas Islands became a self-governing district.
Autonomy in public education began.
With the CNMI’s cessation from the U.N. trusteeship administration, the first “recorded” concrete movement in public education was in 1983 when Public Law 3-43 was enacted. The act “initially” established the Public School System or the “Education Act of 1983.”
P.L. 3-43 was to provide for an education system in the Northern Marianas: it created the Public School System, the Board of Education/Board of Regents, and the Northern Marianas College.
Three years later, a new law was enacted. Signed on Oct. 25, 1988, Public Law 6-10 was a repealer act to P.L. 3-43.
It was P.L. 6-10 that led to the expansion, growth, and progress of what is now known as the CNMI Public School System.
The law was crafted to conform to a constitutional amendment that “creates the BOE” and “provides for the election of five voting members on a nonpartisan basis” and “the appointment of three non-voting ex-officio members” to the board.
In essence, the law established the autonomy of the Public School System.
Twenty-five years ago this month, several individuals, agencies, and instrumentalities have distinguished themselves in advocating for compulsory and quality free education in the Commonwealth.
At 9am today, BOE chair Herman T. Guerrero and Education Commissioner Dr. Rita A. Sablan will lead public education stakeholders in honoring these individuals and organization who helped conceive today’s public education system. (PSS)