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Governor Calvo blasts union

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by Sabrina Salas Matanane

Guam - A big chunk of Governor Eddie Calvo's State of the Island Address focused on improving education from ideas to improve test scores and dreaming beyond our borders to breaking down barriers that the island's chief executive believes has impeded progress. Governor Calvo gave failing marks to the Guam Federation of Teachers and a five-year old collective bargaining agreement recently ruled by the Attorney General's Office as expired and no longer in place.

The GFT contract left parents, teachers, principals, the superintendent and the board powerless. Governor Calvo put the negotiation team to task to put together a brand new contract, one that according to Guam Education Board member Barry Mead admits they'll have to start from scratch. "We will have no choice but to go and begin negotiations again. So being one of the persons that's on that negotiation team I see no reason why we should negotiate a contract that we know the governor won't sing," he said.

Governor Calvo did say he would support a new contract that releases teachers from doing common sense work on campus that they were prohibited from doing in the old contract. For example, Calvo said teachers could get raises if they would agree to maintain their own classrooms. Calvo added that in doing so it would free-up money in doe's budget that normally would have gone to cleaning and supervision services.

"It is the union contract itself that has sapped millions from the budget that should have gone to your pay increases," he noted.

Island school principals were invited to last night's address, including BMS's Dexter Fullo, who said, "I think it requires a lot of discussion and dialogue with our community.  There are some who would oppose it and I know many, many would prefer it because they're doing it anyway already. They might as well get paid for it."

The governor also suggested putting more teachers in the classroom by eliminating unnecessary preparation periods for non-teacher duties like being department chairs, which currently requires additional teacher hiring to fill the periods of a teacher who is given time off for non-teacher duties. The governor encouraged the board to do away with this practice an in exchange pay teachers more to perform those duties. He added this will result in a net savings and reduce teacher recruitment needs.

Oceanview Middle School principal Linda Hernandez Avilla said, "That's something as a former teacher and of course my husband is a teacher, the teachers they do still need the preparation they do need a lot of time to prepare their lessons, so I'm not really to sure whether I agree with that part."

Education the governor said is the single greatest weapon against poverty and the key to island's future, one that he envisions with better schools. Last night Calvo announced the creation of an executive level task force that brings together the Governor's Office, GEDA and DOE to explore how to finance the renovation and rebuilding of existing schools, and the construction of new ones. The governor tasked his chief education liaison Vince Leon Guerrero to head up the group.

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