Over 40 years ago, the draft Guam Constitution had some interesting ideas on education. In addition to an elected school board for elementary and secondary public schools, the Board of Regents was to serve as the primary higher education board. There was also an education commission and a Commissioner of Education to serve as the chief education officer for Guam. These were good ideas.
Over the years, we have had a very disjointed education policy for Guam. We originally had a public school system. In 1952, the government established the College of Guam to provide teachers for the baby boom generation that emerged after the World War II. By 1968, the college became the University of Guam. In 1977, there was a splinter at UOG with the Guam Community College emerging to provide vocational training. For many years, these two schools did not cooperate with each other.
In 1997, I was approached by a GCC official and asked why the criminal justice program at UOG did not accept GCC credits. I immediately looked at the concern and we made swift changes to make a “2+2” program. In most U.S. jurisdictions, if you get a two-year community college degree, just two more years at a university will result in a four-year degree. About two years ago, the University of Guam and the Northern Marianas College worked to make a pilot “3+1” criminal justice degree program. Three years at NMC and one year at a UOG Saipan location can result in a four-year criminal justice degree. We should have graduates from this program in May 2021. Professor Zerlyn Taimanao and Professor Joe Taijeron worked closely with UOG to make this happen. UOG President Dr. Thomas Krise and NMC President Frankie Eliptico had the vision to propose this program.
As the Western director of the National Association of State Boards of Education, I see a lot of best practices for education in the United States. In my service as a Guam Education Board member, I have been very impressed with Guam Community College and its efforts to bridge the gap between the high school and the college levels. While many members of the public may not know this, GCC has more than 2,600 high school students supported by its programs every year. Dr. Mary Okada, one of my colleagues on the Guam Education Board, has promoted a vision for an “Early Middle College” for Guam. Students attending certain program tracks at GCC can earn college credits in their programs and pave the path for graduating from college substantially faster.
In general, I have been very proud of Superintendent Jon Fernandez and his team at GDOE. Their work during the COVID-19 crisis has been critical and important. The school lunch and breakfast programs required a lot of work to make sure they continued without interruption. As we move out of this COVID-19 status, I think we will see a lot of good unseen things happened on Guam.
Ron McNinch teaches at the University of Guam School of Business and Public Administration.