Starting in 1971 as the Nazareth Bay Secondary School, 50 years later the Government Operations and Consumer Affairs Committee has advanced a resolution commending what is now Ivanna Eudora Kean High School teachers and students on half a century worth of achievements.
Senators and testifiers sang praises of the school, but former student and 1989 graduate Dionne Wells-Hedrington testified about her experience attending the high school and how the same struggles she faced 30 years ago are still being faced by students now on the island of St. John.
“Growing up on the island of St. John and matriculating through the public education system didn’t afford us as students the opportunity to complete our public education on our island St. John,” Wells-Hedrington said. “We received a public education up until the ninth grade on St. John, then we transitioned to our lovely years of commuting across the water to St. Thomas to attend the Ivanna Eudora Kean High School for 10 to 12 grades.”
Wells-Hedrington said the commute was exhausting and forced students to wake early if they were to catch the ferry by 7 a.m. each morning.
“The commute was incredibly taxing for those who were living on the other side of the island. I began my days at 4:30 a.m. to provide myself with enough time to get dressed, eat breakfast, and make my way to the corner to be ready for when the bus passed at 6 a.m.”
The opportunities available for children on St. John were limiting and Wells-Hedrington said there was little choice as “receiving our diploma began the driving force that kept us pushing every day.”
Though Wells-Hedrington’s time spent sitting in a classroom at Ivanna Eudora Kean High School is over, the same problem persists and “remains the case for all St. John students who are a part of the public school system.”
The “silver lining” Wells-Hedrington said is the proposed new PreK-12 school, part of the Department of Education’s plan to rebuild all the territory’s public schools.
The rebuild plans are compiled into a 1,000-page document, revealing a school in St. John slated to be built in Estate Catherineberg with the ability to accommodate more than 600 students, including high school students.
While the plans may be in place, it will be years before the project is complete, leaving St. John high schoolers with the burden of catching a ferry if they want access to public education.
Separately, the committee advanced two additional resolutions to the Rules and Judiciary Committee. One resolution commemorates those involved in the Labor Uprising of 1878 known as “Fireburn” where workers protested labor conditions that were considered parallel to slavery which had been abolished 30 years prior.
The other resolution the committee advanced aims to honor Gloria Canegata Waterman for years dedicated to education and public service.
Sens. Carla Joseph, Novelle Francis Jr., Alma Francis Heyliger, Javan James Sr., Franklin Johnson, and Milton Potter were present for the hearing. Sen. Marvin Blyden was absent.