FRUSTRATED AND DISMAYED
Marianas High School students flooded the Saipan Tribune’s copy room late yesterday afternoon with about 70 letters to the editor, said to be triggered by a decision to merge a U.S. Government class with an AP History class to accommodate students who had been left teacher-less after several teachers went on medical leave.
MHS principal Cherlyn Cabrera acknowledged in an interview close to press time that she was aware of the letters and her students’ frustrations, but also pointed to the pressures of MHS’ limited classrooms and resources, saying the issue is a “temporary frustration” that would be resolved when some teachers return to work next week.
The letters reveal that MHS has lost five teachers this school year, but only two have been replaced. Because of a systemic shortage of substitute teachers, students are placed in the school cafeteria without instruction during class time for weeks.
“For the past two weeks I haven’t been learning anything. Ever since February 2nd, I’ve been sitting in the cafeteria doing nothing. Which is not what I like. I come to school to learn. Where are our substitute teachers? …I do not like the fact that they transferred me into a U.S. History class. I already took U.S. History in my freshmen year,” wrote one student, Karay Fitial.
One student explained in a phone interview that they decided to voice their dismay over a school that they felt had teachers that were “overworked.” She said students had been waiting for weeks in the “cafeteria doing nothing.”
“When teachers are absent, [students are] put into our school’s cafeteria for the day,” another student wrote. “To supervise them, they take one of the teachers to watch over them. He or she has to take precious instructional time away from their classes.”
In their letters, some students questioned where PSS money was going. Cabrera explained that students may not know the “bigger picture” and think that “money is money” even if local and federal dollars can be only spent in certain areas.
“We are doing what we can with what we have… I am also frustrated. I want students to have instruction and I don’t want to overload classes but when resources are limited you make the best with what you have.”
May of the letters questioned PSS’ priorities, saying the motto “Students First” does not seem to reflect what is actually happening in classrooms.
Saipan Tribune will publish the students’ letters in succeeding days.