Senator Genevieve Whitaker Addresses the School Annual Safety Report Revealing Multiple Health and Safety Code Violations in V.I. Public Schools (Updated July 7, 2022)
St. Croix, Virgin Islands (U.S.) —Senator Genevieve Whitaker, Legislative Secretary Chairwoman, Committee on Education and Workforce Development, is alarmed by the recent School Accountability Management Report on school maintenance and the status of the administration of our schools sent on Friday, July 1, 2022, by the Virgin Islands Board of Education, which details the hazardous and Safety Code Violations of the Virgin Islands Public Schools.
Senator Whitaker and her team have worked to consistently expose issues surrounding school maintenance and administration (curriculum plans, learning loss, professional development for teachers, additional administration matters) through a series of accountability efforts (hearings, stakeholder meetings, site visits, oversight letters, legislation, and interventions). Such efforts include but are not limited to engaging with education stakeholders who work with her as they work collaboratively to address this ongoing crisis. Senator Whitaker continues to maintain from her first week in office, that she jumped into action along with the staff to tour all Virgin Islands public schools to see first-hand the structural issues with our schools. The first tour in January of 2021 organized in collaboration with the Virgin Islands Board of Career and Technical Education, followed by another tour of all schools in collaboration with key education stakeholders, in collaboration with the Department of Education in 2021. Throughout last year into this year, several correspondences have been sent to principals and Administrators directly for work orders to address interim issues. The former Education Commissioner and her team have provided testimonies and reports on the school conditions in the past but failed to include a report or reports thoroughly revealing intricate and deplorable issues.
Senator Whitaker has made a historical, consistent, regular outreach to every agency to ensure the safety protocols of our schools. The Virgin Islands code mandates pursuant to Title 17 Virgin Islands Code, chapter 3, section 24, that the Department of Health-Environment Division, the Department of Labor (OSHA), and the Department of Planning and Natural Resources make the decision via certification before the commencing of every school year that all public schools inspected are environmentally safe and that the services the Departments of Planning and Natural Resources, Public Works, Health, Environmental Health Division, Occupational Health and Safety (OSHA) and Fire Service to be utilized to carry out the generation of the Report. The VI Fire Service is one of the key certifying entities in the approval process having certified schools last year. This report is due every year on June 15th. The Board submitted the Report within a reasonable time, submitting the report on July 1st. Senator Whitaker thanks the Board of Education for their submission.
Additionally, Senator Whitaker has sought and will continue to join the rest of the country and the world as it relates to best practices of school safety and maintenance. United Nations Sustainable Development Goals, specifically SDG 4. SDG 4 Goal is to ensure inclusive and equitable quality education and promote lifelong learning opportunities for all. Senator Whitaker, in her continued efforts, in her first year in office (last year), sponsored Bill No. 34-0189 to address school maintenance and repairs and the overall administration of our schools, a measure to address the School Accountability report in engaging key stakeholders that are currently left out of the planning process and requiring town hall meetings on all three islands as part of the process. Here’s the link to the bill -https://bit.ly/BillNo340189SchoolAccountabilityReport. As previously reported, the measure was voted down by her colleagues. The lack of support for her measure has not stopped Senator Whitaker from continuing to ensure stakeholder engagement and decision-making with current and future reports to improve our student’s safety and work environments for the teachers, administrators, and support staff.
Senator remains vigilant and committed to improving school conditions by ensuring that key stakeholders are at the table. Senator Whitaker has already had informal meetings with Acting Commissioner of Education, Mr. Victor Somme, who has already committed to creating a better relationship with the public and her office to address all correspondences regarding the improvement of Public Schools in the territory in support of our children/students, teachers, administrators, support staff. Please be on the lookout for further updates on upcoming hearings and public engagements from the office. If you would like to join the office as an education stakeholder, don't hesitate to contact the office via email at: email@example.com or via phone at 340-712-2379.
“Education is the Premise of Progress,” ― Kofi Annan
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