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DOE breaking ground on new HQ in Tiyan

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As the school year comes to a close, Governor Eddie Calvo wants to know more about where the Department of Education is in terms of capital needs and reform. It's been three years since superintendent Jon Fernandez took the wheel at DOE. Tomorrow, he will break ground on one of the agency's long-term projects - the new DOE headquarters in Tiyan.

"This was part of an overall effort to turn Tiyan into an education campus as well as a new home for DOE employees," he said. "Before this we had been down in Agana at the DOA building and we all know that that building was really just decrepit and deteriorating."

In a letter Monday, Governor Calvo asked Fernandez to provide an update on several pending initiatives at the agency. "We've made a big shift over the past three years to raise the standards for our students, to focus on helping our teachers with better instruction and better instructional strategies, and implementing a new assessment that's aligned with college and career readiness," he said.

"And second to that is really addressing some of the nuts and bolts including our facilities issues that have been plaguing us for such a long time, so being able to take down the enrollment of our high schools and address overpopulation by opening a new high school. By being able to get $100 million in future support for Simon Sanchez High School, GW, and other schools," said Fernandez.

According to Fernandez, opening Tiyan High School, which just completed its first year of operation, has significantly reduced overcrowding at other campuses. The new DOE headquarters in Tiyan has also created a healthier environment for DOE employees, while the $100 million RFP to improve school campuses will address facility deficiencies at the schools.

However, challenges at the department still abound as DOE remains under high-risk status, with its finances monitored by a third-party fiduciary agent since 2010. Fernandez said significant progress has been made in the past few years, and his staff will be meeting with USDOE officials to discuss a transition plan this week.

As for one of Governor Calvo's primary concerns - the implementation of the pilot pre-k program - Fernandez said he will continue to work with the department of administration and legislators to make the program a reality, and as per the governor's request, will have more at tomorrow's groundbreaking. "It'll be the final way to close out the school year and then we'll focus on getting ready for the opening of next school year so the work never stops at the department," he said.

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