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Nov. 22, 2001 – In press releases issued after hours on the eve of the Thanksgiving Day holiday, the St. Thomas-St. John Chamber of Commerce president expressed dismay that the territory's three public high schools with accreditation are about to lose it, and the Education commissioner said the decision is being appealed.
The Source reported on Tuesday, in the article "Public high schools to lose accreditation", that the Middle States Association of Colleges and Schools had advised Central, Charlottte Amalie and Ivanna Eudora Kean High Schools that their accreditation would be withdrawn as of Dec. 31 because of failure to correct deficiencies dating at least from 1997.
In the chamber release, John de Jongh Jr., chamber president, said, "It is disheartening that our public schools have a five-year record of non-compliance and that the issues have not been addressed." He added, "When teacher attendance, student attendance and the lack of substitute teachers are three of the four main reasons for loss of accreditation, it undoubtedly reflects an absence of management. These are problems that can be fixed with commitment and dedication."
The need for improved libraries and school-based budget controls also had been cited by visiting Middle States teams.
De Jongh said "it is incumbent that the administration, which has repeatedly cited education as its top priority, take immediate action to rectify this situation … the Administration needs to inform the community what the loss of accreditation means to our children and federal funding." He added that quality education is essential if the territory is to have a qualified work force that will help sustain a strong, productive private sector.
"The chamber's members are ready to work with the administration, the Department of Education, the front-line educators and the unions to address these issues," he said.
On Monday, Tyrone Molyneaux, head of the St. Croix teachers union, expressed a similar willingness to work toward a solution. "We need to come together and appeal to Middle States," he told the Source. "The union is willing to sit with the administration. We need to see how we could approach Middle States from a unified front to say we will do everything we can."
The Education Department release was a statement issued by Commissioner Ruby Simmonds. It read:
"Recently, correspondence was received from Middle States Association of Colleges and Schools advising the department of its intent to rescind membership for the Charlotte Amalie, Ivanna Eudora Kean and Central High Schools. Since that time, correspondence with Middle States has been ongoing, the latest of which, appeals its decision to rescind membership for the three public high schools.
"Several discussions with Gov. Charles W. Turnbull and representatives of the Middle States have also occurred relative to areas of particular concern, which include: site based management, substitute teachers, as well as attendance of teachers and students. Steps are being taken to arrange a series of meetings between Middle States and the Department of Education to aggressively correct all deficiencies, thereby eliminating future lapses in communication and streamlining cumbersome organizational requirements.
"The department's policy is to work jointly with regulatory agencies to amicably resolve problems such as this, by collecting and analyzing data in an effort to develop potential solutions; instead of making unfounded statements to the public. We needed to revisit the options that were available to the department, and are currently assessing the feasibility of our plan of action."
In 1997, Middle States warned of the need for improvement in student and teacher attendance, a substitute teacher system and school-based budget control.
In February 1998, a Middle States team visiting the St. Thomas schools warned that by inspection in April, many improvements would be needed. In May, a visiting Middle States team found that little, if any, progress had been made. Even so, provisional accreditation through 1999 was granted.
In March 1999, a Middle States ream reviewed site-based control of budgets, student and teacher attendance, and the substitute teacher situation. A Government House release said the team was confident of the governor's "ability to oversee completion of their recommendations and to institute full site-based management, continued improvement of the student/teacher attendance rate and creation of a viable substitute teacher pool." The release said the schools were assured of accreditation through May 1, 2001.
On Jan. 10, 2000, in his State of the Territory message, Turnbull stated his commitment to "secure the re-accreditation of our secondary schools in both districts."
On March 15, 2001, a new administration building was dedicated at Central High School to allow expansion of the school library in space previously shared with administrative offices; Middle States had threatened loss of accreditation if the library was not expanded.

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