Speaker Judi Won Pat
31st Guam Legislature

Guam - My dear people, our island continues to face economic challenges, forcing us to make sacrifices. In these hard economic times we all have to make tough decisions on what to keep and what to cut.  As legislators, when it comes to our budget, we are required to prioritize education, public health and public safety. In these tough times, we as your Senators ask ourselves- how do we prioritize public safety over health care, and education above all else, without affecting one or more already critical areas?  Simply put, we have already cut to the bone.

I extend to each of you that it takes an entire community to build and sustain a school of excellence. The recent decision by the Board of Education to close FQ Sanchez in Umatac is not what I wanted to happen.

As the committee chair on Education and Public Libraries I have been proactive in seeking alternatives to keep the school open- a school that has a legacy of producing educated and contributing members to our island-community. It was over a year ago that I proposed that we capitalize upon FQ Sanchez' deep rooted ties to our Chamorro language and culture by converting the school into a Chamorro immersion school- a specialized charter school under private management.

We must accept the economic reality that cuts have to be made across the board- but this does not mean that we have to sacrifice everything along the way.  As a teacher for life and a former school principal, I know first-hand that a community is capable of building and sustaining a school of excellence if we 'will' it to be. I believe that there is still opportunity to keep FQ Sanchez open-but we must think creatively, and investigate other possibilities.

The Government has been experiencing hard economic times. This is why the Charter School legislation is a viable alternative for a more fiscally responsible school with greater accountability and community ownership.

I am committed to working with the Governor's office, BBMR and the office of Budget and Finance to explore a Charter School arrangement for FQ Sanchez Elementary School. With this option, the Umatac community would have greater control over important factors such as curriculum, staffing and student learning-while also addressing vital budget concerns.

As we get closer to hearings on next year's budget, my office will commence a three-day review of the 2012 budget this week. We will sit down-with folks from theDepartment of Education- and evaluate every aspect of the Department's budget requests for next year. Together we will work to find solutions to some of our financial issues. Collaboration between the Department, the Committee on Education and Public Libraries, and the community at-large, is critical in tight budget times like these.

Equally as critical is DOE's search for a new Superintendent.  I trust that the candidate selected will be dynamic, experienced, and able to bring our community together so that we could make decisions in a way that is transparent and in the best interest of our school and island community. I want to publicly thank Dr. Nerissa Underwood for her diligent work in the Department for the past three years. Her care for our children in DOE demonstrates her commitment to the future of our island and our society. Thank you, Dr. Underwood. You shall be dearly missed.

A new Superintendent, a new school year nearing, a new budget, and hopefully a new opening for FQ Sanchez. Every end is a new beginning. And we shall begin these new chapters in our Department of Education-together. For our children, for our island, for our future.

Si Yu'us Ma'ase.