Spending spree: DOE maps out $70M - KUAM.com-KUAM News: On Air. Online. On Demand.

Spending spree: DOE maps out $70M

by Michele Catahay

Guam - Department of Education officials say they're ready to hit the ground running to ensure millions of dollars from the American Recovery and Reinvestment Act are spent properly and efficiently. The funds will cover technology and capital improvement projects. 

DOE will be spending approximately $70 million on a variety of things to improve the entire school system. Superintendent of Public Education Dr. Nerissa Bretania Underwood says agency actually started preparing for the funding to come through several months ago. Schools were assessed to prioritize the projects that needed to be done immediately. One of the bigger items on the list is to ensure all middle and high school students receive their very own laptops.

"Our goal here is to have wireless connections for each of our classrooms and to ensure that the infrastructure is in place so that our students in the high school and middle schools could make use of their laptops. We will have that for all the students in the middle and high school," said Underwood.

Dr. Underwood says more than $2 million will allow teachers to develop highly-qualified teacher standards and provide professional development to upgrades schools in technology. In addition, millions will go toward creating major reform programs in the areas of science, technology and mathematics. Then there are efforts to get facilities fixed.

Southern High School alone will receive $8 million to improve facilities such as the fine arts theater, the Olympic-size swimming pool and sporting facilities that were damaged by natural disasters. Other schools set to receive funds includes older ones such as Untalan Middle, Finegayan Elementary, Simon Sanchez High and D.L. Perez Elementary.

Added Underwood, "Right now for the first phase, it's $30.9 million and we would receive an addition $25 million for the second phase. So all of the schools with the exception of those under the municipal lease (the new schools) will have funds for capital improvement."

DOE is also hoping to purchase a financial management system to ensure accountability with funds, with the superintendent adding, "This should allow us to better track the funds and it'll allow us to provide timely reporting and it would a lot more accountable through transparency. We will have about $6 million that we had set aside for the third-party fiduciary agent and along with that, consulting services for the new financial management system."

DOE has about 18 to 24 months to obligate the funds for these purposes. While the attorney general's office is tasked with reviewing these contracts, Underwood says she doesn't expect any delays in ensuring contracts are awarded in a timely manner.

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