Release of $1.3M for teachers on hold

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The release of $1.3 million in cash incentives for public school teachers is currently on hold because some Board of Education members want that money distributed to more people.

In a special board meeting yesterday, BOE members met to discuss the motion to approve the release of $1.3 million that the Retention Incentive Program recently acquired as monetary incentive for PSS teachers, teacher aids, counselors, librarians, instructors, principals, and vice principals.

However, the board were deadlocked at 2-2 yesterday on whether the funds should be released. That means the board will meet again this afternoon to discuss the motion and, according to BOE chair Janice Tenorio, she is determined to fight for the incentive for all CNMI teachers.

As originally envisioned, if the $1.3 million is approved for distribution, it would go to 600 PSS teachers, teacher aids, instructors, 41 principals and vice principals, and etc.

Tenorio and BOE vice chair Herman Atalig voted yes on the motion to release the funds, saying they believe that the teachers deserve the incentive and it is also a means to encourage the retention of teachers.

“We are rooting for this program. [Teachers] deserve this. We also want to keep our teachers, especially with recovery still ongoing. This is also good for our students. It’s better for them [the students] emotionally to have the same teachers. It’s not good for them if we keep switching teachers,” she said.

BOE members Marylou Ada and Andrew Orsini, however, voted no on the motion to release the funds because the incentive does not include the PSS leadership and support staff, like maintenance.

The absence of BOE Tinian representative Phillip Mendiola-Long caused the deadlock as his vote was the determining one.

Tenorio said that, although she sympathizes with the support staff and PSS leadership who are excluded from the incentive program, especially since austerity measures have yet to be lifted for PSS, providing incentives to the support staff and the PSS leadership would mean the additional need for $483,000 in local funds that the CNMI currently doesn’t have.

Tenorio believes that PSS teachers are not selfish and will share their benefit with support staff who will not be receiving incentives through the program.

“At least over 600 teachers will be happy and they’re not selfish. If they know that the support staff won’t get an incentive, they will share their wealth,” she said.

PSS federal programs officer Tim Thornburgh discovered the Retention Incentive Program under Project Restart.
Project Restart is a federal program that awards grants that can be used for school operations, recruitment of teachers, renewal of teachers, rewards, and performance incentives for teachers.

Kimberly Bautista | Reporter
Kimberly Albiso Bautista has covered a wide range of news beats, including the community, housing, crime, and more. She now covers sports for the Saipan Tribune. Contact her at kimberly_bautista@saipantribune.com.
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