June 12, 2003 – The governor's nomination of Liston A. Davis, a former Education commissioner, was approved by the Senate Rules Committee on Thursday to replace the late Gerald E. Hodge Sr. on the Board of Education.
The committee also approved the nominations of Roy Anduze and Daryl Lynch to the Water and Power Authority governing board and the renomination of Carver C. Farrow Sr. to another term on the Government Employees Retirement System board of trustees.
In his testimony before the senators, Davis said that recent "dynamics" of the school board have "seriously tarnished its image and its ability to operate effectively." At a March meeting, five of the nine members voted to remove the chair, Dr. Jorge Galiber; others have charged that the vote was illegal and Galiber has sued the board seeking to have the action overturned.
Such internal problems notwithstanding, Davis advocated a more expanded role for the board in the V.I. educational system "If the Board of Education is to be respected as a functional quasi-independent agency elected by the people," he said, "then it goes without question that duties and responsibilities must be expanded in order to work effectively with the Education Department."
He said the board should be "dissolved" if it continues to be minimal in the process.
Davis said his short-term goals as a board member would include making the Education commissioner accountable to a professional board, establishing qualifications for those seeking to become board members, and providing for the board to be the "watchdog" of the high schools accreditation process.
Responding to questioning by Sen. Louis Hill, David also said teacher certification, federal funding budgets and the hiring of superintendents and principals should be the responsibility of the board.
Hodge, a longtime school board member, died in April two weeks before the 2003 V.I. Carnival. The Carnival Committee — on which he also served for many years — had decided last year to name this year's village "Gerry's Place" in his honor.
Anduze and Lynch expressed ideas for improving Water and Power Authority revenues.
Lynch, a former WAPA employee, said the utility could generate new revenue by bottling water and selling it to the local market as well as exporting it. He said he would try to gain support from board members to install a potable water storage tank and standpipe to extend St. Croix's distribution system to the island's East End.
Anduze said his main concerns are the "line loss" of electricity, especially on St. Croix, and the need to reduce water loss through illegal hook-ups to the distribution system.
Farrow, responding to questions from Sen. Roosevelt David, Rules Committee chair, said that GERS continues to pay out more money in benefits than it takes in. However, he said this is a natural progression for a "mature" system. He said there is a need to establish a "second tier" for new employees, whereby they would come in under a different retirement plan. The "second tier" would ensure that funds currently in the system will be there for those who have contributed, he said.
In other action, the committee approved a bill submitted by Sen. Ronald Russell to eliminate the current six-year statute of limitations on recovery of college loans granted by the Board of Education.
At a May meeting of the Senate Education and Youth Committee, which Russell chairs, school board member Terrence D. Joseph said that 1,320 Virgin Islanders own nearly $2 million in college loans, some dating from 1970. But he said that more than $1.5 million is "uncollectible" because those loans, to 240 persons, were made prior to 1997 and the statue of limitations on collecting them has run out.
Another $416, 617 in loans made to 1,080 persons since 1997 is considered "collectable," Joseph said. But if the cut-off is not lifted this year, he said, the opportunity to collect as much as $74,306 of that amount from 49 persons will be lost.
The senators voted to hold in committee a bill that would repeal legislation enacted last December providing for the Board of Medical Examiners to waive examination requirements under certain conditions for the permanent licensing of a physician. There has been strong opposition to the new law within the medical community. (See "Repeal urged of medical licensing changes".)
Committee members present at Thursday's hearing were Sens. Douglas Canton, David, Carlton Dowe, Hill and Russell. Sens. Lorraine Berry and David Jones were excused. Also present were Sens. Shawn-Michael Malone and Celestino A. White Sr., who are not members of the committee.
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