March 31, 2001 — After a lot of hard work, anxiety and fund-raising by territory educators, the 2001 Virgin Islands Quiz Bowl is officially on. It will be held April 8 and 9 at the Buccaneer Hotel on St. Croix.
"The Quiz Bowl is now alive and well," said Glen Smith, president of the St. Thomas-St. John Federation of Teachers, which normally operates the event. "Credit must be given to Mark Marin, Antilles School headmaster, because he singlehandedly was able to secure funding, and to Charles Renn, St. Croix's Good Hope School coach, who did all the necessary legwork."
The premier scholastic event was canceled in February when Henrietta Warner, Quiz Bowl coordinator, announced there were no funds for Quiz Bowl 2001.
Renn and Marin decided that was unacceptable.
"The point is about how much the kids want this," Marin said. "They can't be denied after they get to be seniors so they can qualify and have their place in the sun. The Antilles team has given up every lunch period since school started to practice." Marin, who has been involved in the Quiz Bowl since its inception in 1979, said it was not Antilles School alone he was concerned about. "It's for all the teams," he said.
In February, Renn said, "I believe that if the V.I. Quiz Bowl coordinators have given up on trying to support an inter-island competition, then the schools should do it themselves."
Renn, too, commented on how hard the students have worked for the event. "It would be a serious blow to the morale of my students, and very frustrating to me as a coach."
So Marin began fund-raising and Renn investigated the actual costs and logistics of the project. Warner had written that the budget to run the Quiz Bowl was estimated at $30,000 to $40,000. Renn found it could be done for considerably less. In fact, for a team of five students and one coach, the costs to travel to Los Angeles (the farthest possible national competition site) could come to $9,000, using minimum fares he obtained over the Internet. Securing sample questions from Questions Unlimited cost about $1,500, Renn said.
Marin got busy and immediately got pledges from the Rotary Club. "At that point," Marin said, "I wrote to all the school coaches telling them what we were trying to do."
The event will be funded through private donations from the Rotary Club, the Prosser Foundation, Vitelco, Texaco and St. Thomas businessmen Neil Weiss and George Blackhall, Marin said. Smith said he expects more donations to come in, but "we have enough to pitch the Quiz Bowl tent."
Smith sang a different song in February when he despaired of getting funding for the event the AFT has sponsored for more than 20 years. "Renn and Marin said we'd dropped the ball," he noted. Past funding came from the Senate or the Education Department, Smith said, but those sources have dried up. He concluded at the time, "If they (Marin and Renn) can find the money, then as far as I'm concerned, Quiz Bowl lives."
Indeed, to the joy of Renn, Marin, other coaches and all the teams, the event does "live."
Renn said four or five schools will compete: Good Hope and Country Day on St. Croix; Antilles and Charlotte Amalie High School on St. Thomas, and possibly Free Will Baptist School on St. Croix.
Last year's champion, All Saints School, as well as Sts. Peter and Paul School on St. Thomas, and Central High School and Education Complex on St. Croix, will not be competing this year. They made the decision after recieving the cancellation notice from Warner.
Warner, the 13-year Quiz Bowl coordinator, was cautious: "Barely, just barely, we're making it. The Buccaneer Hotel on St. Croix has donated rooms for the teams and a room to hold the competition."
Cautious or not, her enthusiasm was ill-concealed. "We have donations, and we have pledges, and I'm really very excited."
This is the third time the competition will be held on St. Croix, Warner said, and the first time in a hotel there. The games will begin at noon on Sunday, she said, and resume at 8:30 a.m. Monday.
The winning team will go to the national competition in either New Orleans or Washington, D.C. This will be decided depending on the winning team's high school graduation schedule.
Warner, a fourth grade teacher at Joseph Sibilly Elementary School on St. Thomas, has taught in the V.I. public school system for more than 20 years. She has two school children, herself a daughter, Tiffany, a senior at Ivanna Eudora Kean High School, and a son, Jaime, a fourth grader at E. Benjamin Oliver Elementary School.
Smith said Monday morning he is still awaiting several donations that have been pledged. "The clock is ticking," Smith said. He had some good news too. Cape Air confirmed that it will supply round-trip tickets to St. Croix for the St. Thomas teams and coaches.
Anyone wishing to contribute to the Quiz Bowl should make out checks to the St. Thomas-St. John Federation of Teachers and mail to: P.O. Box 2607, St.Thomas, V.I. 00803.