House Education Committee chair Rep. Roman Benavente (R-Saipan) has summoned Education Commissioner Dr. Alfred Ada and the Board of Education to the Legislature to discuss matters related to furloughs and the expenditure of funds.
This comes soon after 25 more PSS employees were furloughed yesterday, on top of over 700 locally-funded PSS employees who were furloughed last April.
At the House of Representatives session last Thursday, lawmakers asked Benavente to call in the education officials to explain some matters, like PSS’ decision to exempt principals and vice principals from the next batch of furloughs. Some BOE members have questioned this decision, saying this will just result in higher expenses for PSS.
Rep. Joseph Lee Pan Guerrero (R-Saipan), who asked Benavente to bring in the education officials, pointed out that teachers and key staffers are confused, adding that teachers, principals and vice principals, and other school staffers call his office, asking about their salaries.
“The teachers and the principal and vice principal do the hard work. Not the commissioner, not the associate commissioner, not any of them in that office,” he said.
He also appealed to Benavente to request pertinent documents and how many in the PSS were cut, who were cut or furloughed, and who were never cut in terms of salary.
House vice speaker Lorenzo Deleon Guerrero (R-Saipan) also asked that Ada provide them with a status of the Hopwood Middle School grant with the Federal Emergency Management Agency as well as a report on locally-appropriated funds.
Deleon Guerrero demands an explanation on how the funds, which came from the local appropriation of each precinct, got used, noting that the intent of those funds is to help and assist in the immediate repairs of the schools to ensure that schools can be used by students when classes open.
In response, Benavente informed the legislators that he has contacted Ada and had asked for him to appear before the House. He added that the commissioner has updated him on Hopwood, that some renovations are taking place. “As far as moving ahead, they are moving ahead just to assure that, hopefully by September, when everything is clear, that kids will be accommodated for the opening of the school.”
Benavente said he hopes and prays that schools will be opened, given that children have to go to school. “I can understand the upper grades like junior high school and senior high school…can manage to get through school online. But kindergarten students up to the middle school will really struggle a lot as far as their studies is concerned and their learning process is concerned. That’s basically my main concern with it.”