Article published Mar 4, 2006

Petitioner: Recall Linsangan

By Oyaol Ngirairikl
Pacific Daily News

Guam grandparent and Guam Public School System employee Sheila Salas said she will ask lawmakers at a continued legislative education oversight hearing Monday to recall at least one member of the Guam Education Policy Board.
Salas, who is leading an effort to recall all of the members of the elected board, said she wants senators to at least remove board member Sedfrey Linsangan. Speaking after the first day of a legislative oversight hearing on education, Salas said Linsangan has made several statements at board meetings and has taken positions that do not serve the interests of parents and the more than 30,000 public school students.

Linsangan later responded to Salas' comment, saying he has made every effort to perform his duty as an education board member conscientiously.

"If people feel we don't make the best decisions, then (the Legislature) has the power to dissolve us, or the voters can vote us out in November, or there's always Mrs. Salas' effort to remove us," Linsangan said.
Controversial statements

At yesterday's oversight hearing, other statements were made by education board members that only strengthened Salas and other parents' resolve to recall elected members of the education board.

During the hearing, board member Avery Ferreras said the Guam Public School System's Direct Instruction reading program addresses the needs of the 85 percent of the students who lack the skills to read at their grade level, but no program has been implemented for the remaining 15 percent who are reading at grade level.

"I think that's irresponsible," Ferreras said. "The 15 percent of students who can read are where we'll find our future doctors and scientists."

Parents applauded when Sen. Robert Klitzkie asked Ferreras if it was possible that maybe students who are now among the 85 percent of the GPSS students reading below their grade level also have the potential to become scientists and doctors if they were taught better now.

"My child is one of those 85 percent students who don't read well," said Inarajan mom Angie Taitague, one of the parents who attended the hearing and who was angered by Ferreras' comment. "I think he's extremely intelligent and he could do something great with his life if he gets a little help with his reading."

Talofofo mom Anita Manibusan said the comments Ferreras and other board members made about Direct Instruction were based mostly on personal issues and not on the issues facing public school students. Manibusan said that is the reason she and Taitague are among the parents supporting Sheila Salas' petition to remove board members.

Recall petition

Salas yesterday picked up the petitions from the Guam Election Commission to remove board members from the seats they were elected into during the 2004 General Election.

Salas, a GPSS employee and a grandparent and guardian of two public school students, said she was glad Sen. Larry Kasperbauer called for the oversight hearing, which will continue Monday.

"More people can now see the truth, these board members aren't here for us parents," Salas said. "Parents who agree with us can meet us this weekend."

Salas said she's meeting with parents and GPSS employees from the various districts to discuss the petition to remove board members. The meeting is scheduled for 2 p.m. Sunday at the second level of the Chamorro Village main pavilion in Hagåtña.
Some parents have been vocal about their disappointment over the actions of the board, which started after the board's decision in January not to allow the second reading block of Direct Instruction to continue and culminated with the board's decision not to retain Superintendent Juan Flores beyond the August expiration of his three-year contract.

One of the parents -- Gerald Arce -- had started a petition drive separate from Salas' attempt, to urge board members to retain Flores, saying Flores needs to remain for at least a couple more years to make firm the foundation he and his administrators have started building.

Arce died after collapsing at a Feb. 22 education board meeting.

Salas said she is planning to ask senators on Monday to begin the legislative process to remove Linsangan.

"I'm moving forward with my petition for a referendum election because I don't think parents need to wait until my petition comes through ... before (Linsangan) is removed from the board," Salas said.

'Admirable qualities'

Neeti Prakash, a GPSS teacher and teachers' union representative to the education policy board, spoke in defense of the board in her testimony during the education policy board meeting.

"I have been closely monitoring the current GEPB, and I have come to recognize that the elected members of this board possess admirable qualities of leadership that are rarely found today and hold a genuine desire to serve the public good," Prakash said.

"Most impressive of all is this board's ability to stand firm on its ethical decisions in the face of challenge by the wealthy and powerful who prey on the board's credulity, and take advantage of the gullibility and the vulnerability of the poor, uninformed and unsuspecting people of Guam."

Kasperbauer, R-Dededo, called for the oversight hearing to discuss several issues, including the Direct Instruction, the superintendent's contract, the education policy board's duties and the school system's status in meeting the standards of the "Every Child is Entitled to an Adequate Public Education Act."

Most of the time spent during the oversight hearing yesterday, which lasted nearly seven hours, focused on the controversial Direct Instruction program.

Board members shared the sentiment that the program is good, but one that has not been implemented properly in areas of assessing students' skills and appropriately placing students.

Kasperbauer said Flores and GPSS administrators will get an opportunity to comment on those issues on Monday.



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