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Fernandez looks ahead to upcoming school year

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Superintendent of public education Jon Fernandez continued his rounds of school tours today, and met up with KUAM to discuss the Department of Education preparations for the coming year.

"We're out here at all the schools sweating and walking and making sure that we're doing what we need to do get schools open on time and without delay on August 17," began Fernandez as he finished up his 36th school tour at Untalan Middle School. "We'll talk with any of our partners who are there at the school so we can walk through, see the classrooms, and get a sense of the progress. In terms of the cleaning get a sense of what facility issues need to be addressed, any health and safety issues."

To date Fernandez has toured roughly three dozen campuses and has just a handful more to go before classes begin in three weeks. "I think we're feeling pretty well, our administrators have assured me that there aren't any major issues now we can focus on what happens in the classroom," he shared. "I think one of the major concerns, and we'll be sitting down this afternoon to talk about with my staff is where we are with regard to the hiring of staff and teachers."

According to Fernandez, the ability to fill teacher positions by the first day of school has been a chronic issue plaguing the department. "We've seen maybe 30 to 40 positions that we've had to scramble to address in the past every school year, so you're talking about out of 2,000 teachers, it's really a handful when you look at the big picture. But for every parent and student who's missing a teacher in that classroom, it's a big issue," he added.

He said University of Guam graduates, who have all passed the PRAXIS exam, needed to become certified teachers, will help fill some of these vacancies, but that more positions need to be filled to account for additional retirements and resignations. He added, "In past years you've typically seen shortages in the science and math in the secondary level, so science and math teachers in middle school and high school have been issues - more difficult positions to fill simply because you may not have the pool of teachers who are certified in those areas to teach."

Fernandez will meet with his team this afternoon to discuss ways to address this issue before the start of school year on August 17.

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