Dear friends (within PSS)


It is my sincere hope that, for purposes of this email, all of you for whom it is intended can separate any personal friendships or relationships we may have from your respective roles as fiduciaries in charge of our Public School System and my capacity as a frustrated parent of kids previously due to enter San Vicente Elementary School this school year and as a concerned, long-time member of the San Vicente Village community.

I received notice just last week that SVES (and several other schools) would be opening with double sessions, meaning less than a half a day of school for each student.  I’ve since received further information that it will likely be for the duration of the year, if not more.  All of this coming as a result of Super Typhoon Yutu and the damage left in its wake nearly 10 months ago.

Meanwhile (in the time since that horrendous storm), there have been ongoing construction/renovation projects within PSS that have no bearing on whether or not 100% of our classrooms will be ready for the new school year. And, somehow, we’ve been able to mobilize an impressive tent-city with solid concrete footings and paved walkways to relocate Hopwood in its entirety, but we can’t change tin roofing systems to get certain classrooms at certain schools back to usable condition. Why is that? Not a rhetorical question. Why is that?  

I’ve heard in part that the Federal Emergency Management Agency is to blame for the delays—either that it has not provided sufficient funding or that it has not approved certain work orders. If that is the case, then maybe it would ease some of our concerns to get some concrete numbers as to what FEMA has provided or to be made aware of what steps PSS has taken and will take to facilitate said work orders immediately. Is FEMA to blame? And, if FEMA is to blame for the delays, then who are calling out FEMA? How are they doing it? And why haven’t they been heard? Again, real questions that call for real answers.  I suspect our governor, Delegate Kilili, or any of our political leaders would be happy to push a few buttons.

Still, whatever those answers may be, we cannot simply wait for a response, we need to seek them out or craft our own. Bear in mind that San Vicente and, I suspect, many of our older schools, started out with little more than a hut in times of need. We are in times of need again.

Perhaps there needs to be greater public outcry? And we know with certainty that activism is live and well in the CNMI, so where are the activists against broken schools? Where is the outrage? Am I the only one who feels like our system owes our kids more than half-day sessions? If ever we needed people to bang on doors or stand on soap boxes with bullhorns in tow, now is that time. FEMA, our local leadership, and whoever else has the authority to make the needed changes have to acknowledge that our kids are being shortchanged and that we should not simply wait for the bureaucracy to unfold.  

There needs to be a greater sense of urgency in our efforts to get all of our classrooms and our campuses ready for the new school year.  It would also be nice to see a greater sense of ownership (or sense of pride) in your responsibility to get that done.  

The fact that amid the massive influx of federal support after Yutu and motivated volunteers all around, we still have unfinished roofs at our schools suggests one of two things in my mind: (1) That there is an embarrassing level of nonchalance, if not complacency, among the people responsible for our schools or (2) That there is something inherently wrong with our Public School System’s system.  Either way, the people on this string have to figure it out and fix it. You still have weeks before the scheduled start date for our schools.

Rome may not have been built in a day, but a tin roof can be changed in a week.  What say you?

Jim Rayphand
San Vicente, Saipan

Contributing Author

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