NMTI students: Caught in the crossfire
A Facebook post last Thursday that said the Northern Marianas Technical Institute has shut down quickly went viral in the Commonwealth, prompting a lot of concern among NMTI students, who were suddenly faced with the specter of an uncertain future.
Speaking during the public comments portion of NMTI’s board meeting yesterday, NMTI adult vocational high school trades/high school teacher Maureen Sebangiol said it’s been emotional ride for many students since last Thursday when the news was posted on Facebook.
“I was in the position on Thursday evening of having to look at their faces and tell them that classes were dismissed until further notice, and that I simply did not have information to give them [but] as soon as I did, I would be in contact [with them],” said Sebangiol.
She said her students confided in her that they were feeling emotional because they were being impacted by the transition of the privately-operated Northern Marianas Trades Institute into the government-run Northern Marianas Technical Institute and that this has made them think that “their future is uncertain.”
“The students I’m interacting with mostly are students that are not successful the first time they went to high school, so they found a pathway where they can earn their high school credits while they’re learning their trade,” said Sebangiol. She said that there is no other way to achieve those two goals—earning a trades certificate and high school diploma—on this island other than through NMTI.
“The shorter we can keep the interval where they’re not in the classroom would definitely be where we want to go and if there’s anything that I can do to assist that, I’m more than happy to do that,” said Sebangiol.
She said her concern is that she doesn’t have any information coming from the board of trustees to be able to tell her students what’s going on.
According to Sebangiol, NMTI had expected 50% of their students to return to school when classes resumed, yet 85% returned.
NMTI board chair Mario Valentino said he was equally shocked to hear that the institute suddenly shut down. “We were equally shocked. I think what happened is that there was a communication that the trade school was shutting down but not the technical, so we were caught off guard as well,” said Valentino.
Valentino, along with board trustees Catherine Attao and Rick Kautz, met with some of the NMTI staff and instructors last Friday to address the false information, reiterating that NMTI is not closing down and that the goal for everyone involved is to move forward as a public technical institute.
According to Saipan Tribune archives, Valentino provided an overview of the transition process for employees and staff last Friday.