BOE meeting canceled; no filing of injunction vs. government yet

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BOARD of Education Chairwoman Janice Tenorio cancelled Wednesday’s special meeting after BOE members and Public School System officials met with Gov. Ralph DLG Torres in the morning.

Janice Tenorio

The special BOE meeting was supposed to discuss whether PSS should file an injunction to prevent the central government from reducing the school system’s fiscal year 2020 budget in light of a steep decrease in revenue projection.

“PSS will not file an injunction as of today,” Tenorio said in an interview Wednesday. “Filing an injunction is like going to a fight. We want to see first if we can compromise. The reality is there’s no money,” she added.

“That does not mean that the board has ruled out pursuing legal action, but such action might be premature. I believe that the consequences of [the] decision [to litigate] will not only affect PSS, but will have significant ramifications for the CNMI government, its other employees, and the well-being of our entire community.”

BOE teacher representative Paul Miura said his understanding was that the discussion for the filing of an injunction was tabled for further deliberation as no vote was taken on the matter due to the cancellation of the meeting.

Education Commissioner Dr. Alfred Ada, for his part, said: “I believe in working collaboratively with all the departments, especially with the governor, the Legislature, and the Department of Finance.”

He added, “I don’t have to go far for everyone to realize that our economy is really in bad shape. Our revenue is declining. We have to try to live within our means and make adjustments. The best thing to do is to communicate with all stakeholders.”

The government’s budget shortfall will affect the funding allotments, Ada said, adding that PSS has two choices: “Make the needed changes to survive or to fight and keep pounding at nothing.”

Ada said PSS has “to deal with the money that we have. It is heartbreaking because we have to make adjustments. But I need everybody’s support.”

Ada said PSS will “try its best not to touch the teachers’ salary. We really want some stability for our students to make sure that we don’t mess up their learning process.”

He said the next year school year will be a different story. “I am still working with the principals and we’re discussing what it is going to look like next school year,” Ada added.

Among the possible changes is a four-day workweek.

“Other communities have done it. We are looking at the pros and cons. We need to weigh that,” Ada said.

There is also a possibility of streamlining PSS departments and merging some of its programs.

“Our chart right now is showing a lot of different managers. We are going to streamline that,” he said.

All proposed changes will be presented to the BOE for its approval.

Next month, Ada said, they will scale back the salaries of the top managers, including the commissioner, the associate commissioners, school principals, and directors.

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