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Underwood won't return as superintendent

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by Michele Catahay

Guam - Throughout her tenure, Department of Education superintendent Dr. Nerissa Bretania Underwood has faced a number of challenges, from the threat of imposing a third-party fiduciary agent, to incidents of bullying and the lack of funding to pay vendors. But Underwood has no plans to renew her contract come July.

While the new Guam Education Board was supposed to address a number of things during its board meeting in Hagatna last night, it had received some shocking news from the superintendent. Dr. Underwood says with her contract expiring in the next several months, she says she has no plans on renewing it.

"This is the same case as Deputy (Taling) Taitano and Deputy (Arlene) Unpingco," Underwood said. "I therefore strongly recommend the GEB immediately start the recruitment of a new superintendent of education so that there's time for a smooth transition when our contracts expire on July 22. Please note that I will not be applying for the position and at least one of the deputies has already informed me that she will be retiring."

Over the past decade, DOE has seen seven different superintendents - all leaving the agency on different terms and circumstances. But Underwood told the board it would need to find someone to replace her in order for it to be a smooth transition. "Our collective goal as leaders of this department between March 31 and July 22 is to provide a seamless transition from one leadership team to the next. We need to do everything we can to avoid sudden stops," she continued.

Within the last three years, Underwood dealt with issues noted by the U.S. Department of Education, further imposing a third-party agent for DOE. In addition, she was faced with the shut down of schools due to the lack of a food contract. She was even criticized after numerous reports of bullying were brought to the legislature. But despite these downfalls, Underwood recognizes the positive changes made during her tenure.

She noted, "It has been gratifying to see more students go to school and graduate. It has been encouraging to see a level of success in every single school as measured in the SAT-10 results last year."

As for what she plans on doing after her contract is up, Underwood says it's something she doesn't want to disclose. "I am grateful for the opportunity to be the superintendent of education. And there may be a lot of questions and speculations of why I am not interested in renewing my contract as superintendent. Through the age of 56 years and 30 years of service in DOE, I simply want to do things that are personal to me," she said.

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