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Nov. 28, 2001 — The V.I. Department of Education will appeal the imminent loss of accreditation for three of its high schools.
After a meeting Tuesday attended by Gov. Charles Turnbull, Education Commissioner Ruby Simmonds and officials from the Middle States Association of Colleges and Schools, Simmonds said an appeal will be filed to keep St. Croix's Central and St. Thomas' Charlotte Amalie and Ivanna Eudora Kean High Schools from losing their accreditation on Dec. 31.
Simmonds said she will request that Middle States extend the current accreditation through the end of the school year. She also said the department will apply for re-accreditation for the schools.
The appeal, she said, will allow Middle States "to investigate the situation" but won't "guarantee a resolution."
"I am optimistic about what will happen," she added.
Middle States' decision to decertify the schools stems from, among other things, a lack of site-based management and substitute teachers plus poor attendance for teachers and students.
Simmonds said the loss of accreditation will not keep graduating students from going on to college. Nor does it mean "our schools are bad."
Evadney Hodge, executive director of the V.I. Board of Education, said the board wants more input into the department's management of accreditation so that similar lapses don't occur again.
"The board is ready to assist the department any way possible," Hodge said. "Hopefully the governor will be endorsing the board as a partner with the Department of Education."
Hodge, who attended part of Tuesday's meeting, said the appeal process will take several months.
"Very few appeals are received, so there really is no track record," she said. "We're looking at least a few months for the appeal to go forward."
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 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 was granted through 1999.
In March 1999 a Middle States team 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 library building was dedicated at Central High School as part of a Middle States' requirement for accreditation of the school. The library previously shared space in the same building as the school's administrative offices.

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