by Krystal Paco
Guam - Superintendent Jon Fernandez this evening began his address on the state of education on Guam. It's a speech he says is not about answering questions about busing, or bullying or overcrowding or double-session at George Washington High School, but about laying the foundation for change.
With island dignitaries present, Fernandez said the state of Guam education is slowly improving but is quite fragile. He said "we have a long way to go to meet our achievements and goals for our children." He talked about five key areas that he believes if doe focuses on it can make substantial progress for students in the coming years.
Those five areas include:
- Having higher standards and greater focus on student achievement: Fernandez said we know we need to do a better job of increasing numbers of students who test proficient in the sat - ten tests. He said one major component of DOE's improvement effort will be to the implementation of the Common Core state standards, a state-led effort supported by the national governors association to improve our nation's education standards.
- Fernandez said DOE will focus on is having effective teachers and principals, the latter of which he called his front line leaders. The superintendent saying he wants to make sure his teachers get the training they need and ensure DOE makes a concerted effort this year to build a stronger more cohesive principal corps.
- Create a more responsive and high performing organization. Fernandez said our organization chart shows a school system that revolves around the central office and the office of superintendent he said this is upside down. DOE must revolve around the needs of our students and classrooms, we need to facilitate solutions and not more red tape. He said he's committing to building a more responsive customer service oriented agency.
- Provide support for facilities, schools and classroom needs, as the superintendent listed off the many projects currently underway that are being funded with the 60-million dollars in ARRA funding for Guam, such as stem renovations at GW and UMS, and renovations underway at southern high school. Fernandez added that over the coming year, DOE will be working to create a master facilities plan, using the building-by-building assessment being conducted by the us army corps of engineers, and incorporating the changing demographics and needs of our students.
- Focus on is maintaining a consistent and sustained path toward improvement.
Fernandez reflected on his tours of all the public schools when he first started his job, saying administrators and teachers would echo the same sentiment describing the merry-go-round in DOE leadership and its impact on stability and confidence in the organization. In the past 21 years, DOE has seen 21 different superintendents. Fernandez said we need to stabilize our organization, agree on a path toward improvement, and demonstrate our ability to stay true to that path so we can evaluate our progress and make rational decisions about how to improve our efforts.
In his closing statements Fernandez said when he looks at the year ahead there are so many challenges to address but he is not discouraged he said he sees possibility and opportunity. Fernandez has only been at DOE for four months and within this timeframe he's garnered $2.8 million in Department of the Interior money for classroom purposes. He's also dealt with USDOE on extending the deadline to expend $60 million in ARRA funding and identified funding to outsource additional bussing and bus driver overtime to cater to double-session at George Washington High School.