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School blues like in the old days




Yes& Know By Aline Yamashita

Someone asked why use the term "decommission." I suggested that the school closure issue is so sensitive that anything and everything to soften the tension might help. Decommission may be perceived as less threatening than closure. We’re decommissioning schools; we are not closing schools.


That’s because it is said that the schools may be recommissioned or reopened, if needed. And the thought is, with the military buildup, more classrooms will be needed.


That brings back the memory of the opening of DoDEA schools. At that time, I was the deputy director of the public school system. A major project on my table was the opening of the DoDEA schools.


While DoDEA contracting officer Hector Nevarez repeated that military families did not want to be a part of us, it was really the notion of then-governor Carl Gutierrez assuming full control over the public school system. For a time, he was both the director and the board. The legislature gave it to him, and a part of that effort was to dethrone the Board of Education.


DoDEA schools were set to open. I asked DoDEA liaison Barbara Askey if they were touching our workforce. “No.”  Which only made sense since Hector premised that we were a failure.

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But truth be told, especially toward the first five years, 98 percent of their teaching staff were teachers at the Guam Department of Education. Jim Craig, then dean of the University of Guam's School of Education, helped with in-service training at DoDEA and always shared the data. They simply could not resist the higher pay, cost of living allowance, resources and new buildings. 


I never held it against them. They were still teaching growing minds.


I remember how we were informed of the decision to open DoDEA schools. I was meeting with Faye Kaible on a curricular project when Tony Diaz, public information officer, popped his head in. “Aline, the radio just announced DoDEA schools are opening.” Wow. Through the radio.

People asked if I would fight it. Nope. If families did not want to be with us, let them go.


But truth be told, they did not want to go.


When the school year opened, nobody transferred out of our schools. Families remained. During the first week of the new school year, GDOE schools with military families kept me in the loop. “Aline, nobody is leaving. Student counts are the same.” Alrighty then.  The next semester a DoDEA directive was issued – all military students shall attend DoDEA schools.


It was a highly charged issue fueled by politics in Washington D.C. and politics in Guam. At the local level, politics then included major players such as Gov. Carl Gutierrez, Board Chair Gloria Nelson, and Sen. Larry Kasperbauer, chair of the legislature's education committee.


 Nobody liked each other.


The chess pieces were on the table.


Roland Taimanglo was the director and I, the deputy. Mike Reidy and John Denorcey met us in the office and told us we were fired. It was a stormy day. 

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As we met, aAdministrative aAssistant Zena knocked on the door. “Dr. Yamashita, Southern High is asking for direction. Bomb scare is in effect, students are in the rain.” I shook my head and told her to ask her new boss. Mike simply looked at me and asked me what to do.  I shook my head again. “Zena, tell Dr. Bartonico to close for the day, get the kids in shelters, ask Tony to ask DPW to pick up the kids and get the information out through the media.” 


 It was a maddening hour. I stood and said, “Okay, I’ll swing by the leadership meeting this afternoon and thank the school leaders and encourage them to continue their outstanding work.” Mike looked at me and told me I was banned from all DOE properties.


That’s when I cried.  John shook his head.


Now, we may be sharing classrooms again. Of course, we welcome them back. We were not the ones who wanted them to leave in the first place.

 

Aline Yamashita is a mom, a teacher and former senator. She served in the 31st and 32nd Guam Legislatures. Send feedback to  aline4families@gmail.com.




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