Should GEPB elections cease to exist? - KUAM.com-KUAM News: On Air. Online. On Demand.

Should GEPB elections cease to exist?

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by Michele Catahay

Guam - A public hearing is scheduled to be held this evening on a bill that would do away with elections for members of the Guam Education Policy Board. Instead, it calls on the governor of Guam to appoint them, with confirmation by the Legislature. 

Guam Education Policy Board members are currently elected by constituents based in four districts: Kattan, Luchan, Lagu and Haya.  While it's been this way for the past eight years, Vice-Speaker B.J. Cruz wants that to change. Cruz introduced Bill 424, which would require members to be appointed by the governor and confirmed by the Guam Legislature.

Former board chairperson Joe San Agustin says the Guam Legislature had a problem with that system when members were appointed back then. He says the biggest issue was political interference, saying, "One time, Judi Guthertz wanted to pass a bill to give the Guam Education Policy Board governing authority. That failed. Now, okay, you don't want to give the elected board members, elected by the people of Guam in their respective districts, governing authority, but you're willing to give the appointing authority? Why even have a board? It's either you have one, or you don't," he proposed.

San Agustin says if the board is appointed, the governor should just appoint the superintendent.

In the meantime, Department of Education Superintendent Dr. Nerissa Bretania Underwood says while she's in favor of a system that works, she says she still has hope for the current one, telling KUAM News, "I do believe in democracy. The elected board is a structure that is actually reflects our democratic government where you have representatives from your constituents. I have an appreciation for that. It's not a perfect system, but I do believe that we do know the areas that need to be strengthen and we need to work on that. I don't want the board to go back to being completely under the governor's control at this point."

Bretania Underwood says it is expected that the board and DOE will have their differences, but she remains confident that issues can be ironed out.  "I think that it's very important to draw the distinction," she explained. "In order for them to make sound policies, they need to be provided with accurate information about the operations and the implementation of that policy and the impact on the district."

The education committee will hear public comments at 6:30 this evening at the Legislature's Public Hearing Room.

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