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Governor and Designated Education Commissioner Take Three-Island Tour

Aug. 27, 2007 — Gov. John deJongh Jr. and designated Education Commissioner Lynn Spampinato toured several schools in the territory Monday, welcoming students and parents to a new year and getting a first-hand assessment of the facilities.
“There’s a lot of energy and excitement” at the schools, Spampinato said. She and deJongh spent Monday on a whirlwind tour of schools on St. John, St. Thomas and St. Croix, wrapping things up on the big island before the end of the school day.
The delegation, which also included Territorial Director of Maintenance Louis Hughes, toured the Julius Sprauve School on St. John; the Bertha C. Boschulte, Ivanna Eudora Kean, Addelita Cancryn and Lockhart schools on St. Thomas; and the Arthur Richards, Alexander Henderson and Educational Complex schools on St. Croix. They were joined on St. Croix by Gary Molloy, the newly appointed insular superintendent of schools.
It was Spampinato’s first time visiting many of the schools, and she summed up her experience saying she was “very encouraged” as the tour ended at the St. Croix Educational Complex. Admitting that “we have a lot of work to do,” Spampinato said she was glad to see many parents accompany their children to school and get involved in their educational experience.
At the Alexander Hamilton Elementary School on St. Croix, Spampinato spoke out about the condition of the auditorium.
“You see how filthy this is,” Spampinato said, pointing to the discolored auditorium floor. Graffiti could be seen on the backs of several of the wooden chairs, some with broken arms and splitting wood. “They didn’t even wipe up the spilt milk off your chairs,” she said pointing to several white lines streaming down the back of one chair.
“(The) Department of Education contracted a company to clean and buff the floors,” Principal Sofronio Navarrete said later, but “it was not done well.” Spampinato told him she would call the company for “accountability,” he said.
Navarrete found Spampinato to be “very aggressive.”
“She has a lot of things in mind to change, and that’s good for a leader,” Navarrete said. “If you want bold reform, you have to have a bold leader.”
Making his assessment of the schools, Molloy said, “All things considered — the age of the schools and the lack of consistent repair — we are in pretty good shape in terms of creating an environment conducive to learning.”
Assemblies for 12th graders and their parents were being held at Kean and the Complex, giving the governor and designated commissioner a chance to address these audiences.
“I wanted to be here at the beginning, and to be with you all the way through,” deJongh told the seniors. “I am here to give you support. If things don’t go right, it’s my fault, and if things go well, you’ve done a good job.”
While the governor continued to stress the importance of parental involvement with students in both public and private settings, Spampinato spoke of the need to replace Cancryn's existing campus with a whole new school — one replete with a gym and much bigger cafeteria.
At the Complex, Spampinato praised the members of the school’s administration, calling them “impressive and very talented.”
"We hear you loud and clear," she said. "And we're going to continue to lay the groundwork, so we can turn your dream into a reality."
Speaking after the assembly, deJongh said he found the schools in “fair condition” and discussed the need to create a separate capital-improvement budget specifically dedicated to education.
"In terms of the school facilities, of course there are areas that we still need to address," he said. "So while there have been some marked improvements in school maintenance, it doesn't negate the fact that we need to put in place an aggressive capital program to deal with some of these larger projects."
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