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DOE: despite cost-cutting, priority is students

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The legislature's talks about cuts to the largest government agency are one thing. But, DOE isn't waiting to implement drastic measures to save money. From work sessions to community input meetings, now agency administrators say the next phase of cuts will directly hit the schools impacting students and teachers.

The Department of Education's priority is its students. "I do not want our students to be used as political pawns in this game that may be politically motivated outside," said Mark Mendiola, chairman of the Guam Education board. "One gentlemen says it's like giving money to a drug addict, we're in the business of educating our kids, we're not drug addicts, we're not pushers, senators please help the Department of Education meet its mission."

Citing inaction from the Legislature to secure funds, DOE Administration says they've stepped up to make up the $19 million, implementing Phase 1 of cuts, with projected savings add up to $12 million.

However, that's not enough. Phase 2 and Phase 3 mean deeper cuts that would directly affect the schools.

Phase 2 impacting personnel directly, by limiting the use of on-call substitute teachers for the rest of the school year.

In addition, the hiring freeze originally placed on central office will be extended to all school-based vacancies, such as teachers.

Plus, it's in Phase 3 DOE will implement Governor Eddie Calvo's 32-hour work week, resulting in furloughs.

Superintendent Jon Fernandez reassures employees in a Memo, furloughs won't happen until after the school year ends, sometime in June, but these cuts have to come sooner rather than later. "If we want to minimize as much as possible this pain I don't think there's any way we'll avoid negative impacts on our schools and classrooms," he explained.

The negative impact includes shutting down department facilities on evenings, weekends, cutting afterschool programs, and 4th and 1st quarter sports practices, and possibly doing away with summer school.

Even going as far as delaying the start of the school year, from August to October 1st, which will burden parents and the Department to meet the 180 required instructional days.

The Guam Education Board is scheduled to meet Tuesday night at JFK high to vote and finalize the proposed options.

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