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Monday, May 27, 2024


Feb. 3, 2002 – The Middle States Commission on Secondary Schools has established a panel to hear the territory's appeal of the loss of accreditation of three public high schools, and a hearing on the matter is set for Feb. 28, according to Education Commissioner Ruby Simmonds.
The hearing will take place in Lawrenceville, New Jersey, just outside of Trenton, Simmonds said, and the Virgin Islands is allowed to send four representatives — one from the Education administration and one each from the affected institutions, Central, Charlotte Amalie and Ivanna Eudora Kean High Schools.
Following the hearing, the panel will have two months in which to submit its recommendations to Middle States, Simmonds said. The report would be due by the commission's semi-annual meeting, set for April 26-27. "Following its April 2002 meeting, the Commission on Secondary Schools will advise the Educational commissioner of its final decision," she said in a release faxed to the Source from the Education public relations office Saturday night.
In the release, the commissioner stated: "Middle States has further advised me that only one representative from the department's central office, as well as one representative from each of the three public high schools, may attend."
The Virgin Islands representatives "will not be allowed to testify during the hearing, but will be available to answer questions," she said. "Within the parameters of the appeals process, the department is allowed, however, to provide the panel with additional data which the commission might not have had at the time of [its] decision to terminate the accreditation of the three high schools."
If the ranking administrators attend the hearing, the territory would be represented by Simmonds; Kent Moorhead, CHS principal; Jeannette Smith, CAHS principal; and the acting principal at Eudora Kean since the retirement a month ago of longtime EKHS principal Sinclair Wilkenson.
The format would appear to negate the desire expressed in a Jan. 14 letter to Simmonds by Sen. Norman Jn Baptiste, Senate Education Committee chair, that "at least three" members of the Legislature take part in the appeals hearing. The senator said he wanted to "impress upon" the commissioner "the value of representation and input from the First Branch of government throughout the entire accreditation appeals process."
Middle States advised education authorities in November that the three accredited public high schools would lose that accreditation on Dec. 31. The territory's fourth public high school, the Education Complex on St. Croix, has yet to be accredited.
On Jan. 8, George K. Allison, chair of the Commission on Secondary Schools, noted that the V.I. government had appealed the loss of accreditation. But meanwhile, he added, Education Department officials "have filed papers of candidacy for the schools to go through the process" of being evaluated anew for accreditation. Typically, he said, "the process should take about a year."
As far as the appeal of the loss of accreditation, Allison said then, the hearing panel "will make a report at the April meeting, and then we will review the report and see what happens." But, he emphasized, "The commission has already taken action as far as the accreditation. That is why the schools are now candidate schools. The commission appeal process is a separate thing."
The loss of accreditation capped a continuum of non-compliance with commission standards dating back as least to 1997. Repeatedly, Middle States warned of the need for improvement in student and teacher attendance, a viable substitute teacher system, school-based budget control and improvements in library space and staffing.
For information on secondary schools accreditation, visit the Middle States web site.
For background on the events dating from 1997 that led up to the withdrawal of accreditation from the three schools, see the Nov. 19 Source story "Public high schools to lose accreditation".

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