A proposal to charge Career and Technical Education teachers $25 for recertification starting in January turned into a discussion about lapses in the system at Wednesday’s meeting of the board that oversees the territory’s CTE programs.
Career and technical education (CTE) prepares youth and adults for a wide range of high-demand careers.
Currently, just 35 percent of the territory’s roughly 88 CTE teachers are up to date on their certifications that must be renewed every five years, said board member JoAnn Murphy, who proposed the new fee that would help offset the cost of certification courses.
As board member Jenny Hawkes made a motion to adopt the proposal, treasurer Genevieve Whitaker objected, citing the financial strain the COVID-19 pandemic has created for many in the territory, including teachers.
“I just don’t see it as a hardship,” said Murphy, who noted that teacher salaries have not been affected by the pandemic.
However, Whitaker said implementing a new fee amid the economic downturn that the virus has wrought will cause a public backlash. “We do not need a communications crisis in the midst of the COVID,” she said, suggesting instead that the implementation date be pushed back to the start of the 2021 school year.
“I, too, see the wisdom of Ms. Whitaker’s thoughts,” said board Vice Chair Dr. Anastasie Jackson, offering her support for a later start date. “Perhaps that will help them to do their due diligence to the certification process,” she said.
Board Chairman Dr. Michael Francois agreed. “What I’ve learned, especially living in the Virgin Islands, is if you don’t put a price to it, people don’t take it serious,” he said. “I would never want to pay for anything I could get for free.”
Francois suggested the board also involve the Education Department as well as Commissioner Racquel Berry-Benjamin in tackling lapsed certifications.
“Something has to be done … making them realize how serious it is to not be certified,” said Francois, whether it’s a fee, penalty or suspending instructors who are lapsed. It’s “ridiculous to have to run teachers down” because they aren’t certified, and Education Department officials should be helping to make sure that they are, he said. At the very least they should not get passing evaluations, he said.
“We are going to face some difficulty and backlash,” said Jackson, to which Francois replied, “We still need to raise the flag,” or the board members will be the ones to take flak from the Senate.
“We have laws in the Virgin Islands, gun laws and everything else, that’s not being enforced. I want to at least raise the flag,” said Francois, who faced criticism from legislators when he testified about certifications and myriad other challenges facing the territory’s CTE programs at a hearing of the Senate Committee on Education and Work Force Development in July.
With a newly functional CTE board that has been meeting for less than a year, Francois told the Senate that a gap remains between the board and organizational stakeholders engaged in career and technical education administration, including the Board of Education, the Education and Labor departments, State Career and Technical Education Office and the Workforce Development Board.
“Just do your job,” Sen. Janelle Sarauw told Francois at the time. “We keep planning and have all this red tape and bureaucracy, but just do your work.”
Murphy, who serves on the board’s Teachers’ Certification Committee, agreed Wednesday to table the matter until the November meeting and to come up with a plan that also will give educators an opportunity to weigh in. Jackson said plans are in the works to help streamline the certification process.
CTE Board Executive Director Anton Doos said copies of a new certification guide have been sent to the Education Department, Education Commissioner Racquel Berry-Benjamin and Gov. Albert Bryan Jr.’s office, and he will put a link on the website – victeb.org – so teachers can download it from one central location.
Doos, who taught culinary arts for 20 years before accepting his current administrative post in August, is currently working on updating the website, he said.
The Board of Career and Technical Education meets from 2 to 4 p.m. on the third Wednesday of the month. Due to the COVID-19 pandemic, it currently is meeting via Zoom. Its offices are located at 8000 Nisky Center, Suite 210, on St. Thomas and at 35 Castle Coakley, on St. Croix. For more information, call 340-714-7437 on St. Thomas and 340-719-0031 on St. Croix.
In addition to Francois, Jackson, Whitaker, Hawkes and Murphy, board members include secretary Dr. Suzanne Darrow-Magras and public relations officer Ronnie Jones.