The Public School System will be exempting both principals and vice principals from the next batch of furloughs because they are considered “essential” as classes prepare for the new school year and campuses reopen CNMI-wide. Board of Education members are, however, skeptical about this decision, saying that employees who are “essential” to the reopening of classes are maintenance, custodians, and administrative support staff and they should be considered for reinstatement.
During a special board meeting last week, BOE vice chair Herman Atalig was the first to raise the question regarding what principals and vice principals will do to prepare campuses. “You’re right about preparation, but when are you going to ‘unfurlough’ staff that you actually need, like maintenance and custodians and all the other staff the principals are going to need in order for this to be accomplished? Unless you have other funding to contract other vendors to do that,” he said.
BOE member Marylou Ada pointed out that principals and vice principals are not intimately involved in preparing campuses, that the work they do on campus during summer can be done by support staff who are paid less.
“What are they doing in the schools? Are they intimately involved in trying to set up this scenario? I cannot see them doing this without the essential staff like maintenance. I don’t see the need for both principals and vice principals. We’re just incurring more expenses at this time. Why do we need to put a principal, who is making $97,000, there, to do this work? Why are the principals and vice principals being ‘unfurloughed’? Are they doing all this work?” she asked.
Board member Andrew Orsini said that PSS needs to save as much money as possible for the next fiscal year since they are only expecting a budget of less than $20 million. “I agree with the vice chair. I’m skeptical with what’s going on right now also because there [are] no students. …We’re trying to cut down costs and it just doesn’t make sense to have both principals and vice principals at the schools right now,” he said.
According to Lucretia Borja, PSS Human Resources director, there were 44 individuals who were originally on the next batch of furloughs. However, PSS decided to remove principals, vice principals, and network and tech staff from that list, leaving 25 additional furloughed employees come June 15.
Education Commissioner Dr. Alfred Ada explained that principals are needed on campus during this time is to ensure that offices are open for families who need student documents since there will be a lot of changes.
Ada added that vice principals also need to be on campus to oversee the revamping of the campuses since they are most familiar with school structures.