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Finance Committee Approves Grants to Help Parents, Fishermen

Oct. 17, 2006 — The Senate Finance Committee on Tuesday put its stamp of approval on four federal grant applications. One step closer to fruition now are plans to better manage the territory's fisheries, ensure the safety of the territory's potable water system and create facilities and programs that allow parents to become more involved in public education.
The grants, which have already cleared the federal grants division of the Office of Management and Budget, will aid the St. Thomas Fishermen's Association, the Department of Planning and Natural Resources Division of Environmental Protection and the V.I. Resource Center for the Disabled.
According to Clement "Cain" Magras, associate director of OMB's federal grants unit, a grant application from the V.I. Resource Center for the Disabled (made in conjunction with the local Department of Education) will support the organization's V.I. Campus project, which reaches out to parents with children attending V.I. schools and programs, along with parents living in "economic and educationally disadvantaged" areas and those who employ English as a second language. The grant is valued at approximately $734,000.
"Over the past three years, the V.I. Department of Education has documented that a small number of parents are involved in their child's educational life," Belinda West O'Neal, student affairs coordinator for the St. Thomas-St. John district, said.
O'Neal added that at one local elementary school "at least 50 percent of the parents" have not picked up their child's report card. "In further discussions with the parents it was discerned that most parents do not understand the purpose of attending parent/teacher conferences or the power of a PTA membership ." she said.
Parents who are "limited-English proficient" are also a particular concern for the school system, O'Neal said. She said these individuals have "struggled with navigating" the system and frequently "question how they could best assist their child in school."
Through the V.I. Campus project, three "Family Learning Centers" will be established (one on each island) to foster parental involvement.
Through the program, the center and the Education Department also hope to strengthen relationships with various government agencies such as the departments of Human Services and Health, along with local advocacy organizations, O'Neal said.
O'Neal added that one of the program's main objectives is to expand parents' understanding of the school system, including the need to communicate effectively with teachers and other school staff. School personnel will also be provided with training on how to work with parents.
Senators also approved two grant applications for the St. Thomas Fishermen's Association — one for $165,040 and the second for $113,884. The grants will be used to study the size and numbers of certain fish populations and to determine the socioeconomic impact of fishery closures in the St. Thomas-St. John district. Additionally, the association will work on establishing a Web page and continue to publish its "Olewife" newsletter, among other things.
A grant application of $620,000 from DPNR was also approved by the committee Tuesday. The grant would allow the department to establish, over a six-year period, a training and certification course for individuals operating the territory's public water systems.
The grants now go to the federal government for final approval.
Senators also approved seven lease agreements between the government and:
— K'Unique Plus Inc., doing business as "House of Class," for the purpose of operating a barber and beauty shop (the lease is for a period of 10 years at a cost of $7,105 per year);
— A & J Meat Market for the purpose of operating a wholesale meat market, grocery and liquor store (the lease is for a period of 10 years at an annual cost of $4,800);
— 39 Dronningens Gade Inc, doing business as Cardow Inc., to beautify "Post Office Alley" (the lease is for a period of 10 years at an annual cost of $1,200);
— Jose Castillo, doing business as Castillo Auto Repair, for the purpose of operating an auto repair shop (the lease is for a period of 20 years at an annual cost of $6,898.50);
— C&C Car Rental for the purpose of operating a car rental agency (the lease is for a period of 40 years at an annual cost of $14,976.50);
— Brooks Upholstery & Auto Repairs for the purpose of constructing an upholstery and auto repair shop (the lease is for a period of 20 years at an annual cost of $12,000); and
— The Safety Zone, Inc. for the purpose of operating a resale shop (the lease is for a period of 50 years at an annual cost of $6,260.75).
Present during Tuesday's meeting were committee memebers Sens. Roosevelt C. David, Juan Figueroa-Serville, Louis P. Hill,committee chairman, Norman Jn Baptiste and Usie R. Richards.
Sens. Pedro "Pete" Encarnacion and Neville James were absent.

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