Feds, A&M meet with local leaders - KUAM.com-KUAM News: On Air. Online. On Demand.

Feds, A&M meet with local leaders

by Nick Delgado

Guam - The Guam Department of Education may have selected its third-party fiduciary agent, but it doesn't mean they will be getting the federal funds that have been withheld just yet.  USDOE's Christine Jackson joined the local agency's third-party agent, Alvarez & Marsal, as well as DOE Superintendent Dr. Nerissa Underwood, as they met with local leaders.

"We're very pleased," Jackson said.  "As a matter of fact, we're surprisingly impressed with the progress that has happened so far this week."  For the past year, USDOE has withheld millions of federal dollars from Guam DOE until the agency hired a third-party fiduciary agent.  However, Jackson admits it's still the beginning of stage and Guam will not be getting the funding just yet.

She added, "We will be monitoring that progress and once we are satisfied that they are actually up and running, then we will give the approval to let the monies flow which have been held up this last year...it will be pretty much be developed and based on how well they address their corrective action plan which is something that needs to be redeveloped but that will be the roadmap to determine whether or not the high risk designation can be removed."

Guam DOE has a 90-day timeframe to get the third-party agent settled.  It's something Dr. Underwood says she is optimistic will happen even sooner.  "The longer that it will take for us to get the system going will be the longer it will be for the local government to have to sustain the federally-funded programs," she explained.  "Its very critical, it's like ensuring our students continue to be fed as we make the changes and just that there isn't a disruption."

The feds also agree that it will not be an easy process.  "The challenge is that this is new, no one has expertise having a third-party fiduciary just come in to their organization," noted Jackson.

Underwood says they will use these next couple of years to also get the department out of its high-risk grantee status. While the immediate programs affected by the federal funds being withheld include special education, night school, GATE, the reform and academic programs, Underwood says they will be working in a partnership, rather than a receivership with the third party agent as she says GDOE is hoping to regain full control of how the funds are handled.

"The long-term goal is not to have two systems, but to have one system that's sufficient in getting the services to our students," she explained.

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