Education leaders to meet with federal department officials on high-risk status

GDOE: The Guam Dept. of Education entrance is seen Sunday, Aug. 14, 2022, in Tiyan. Guam education officials are scheduled to meet with the U.S. Department of Education. David Castro/The Guam Daily Post

Acting Superintendent Francis Santos, Guam Education Board Chair Mark Mendiola and Vice Chair Mary Okada have had opportunities to meet weekly with the U.S. Department of Education and, according to the chair, there are some issues and concerns the officials are continuing to address when it comes to GDOE’s high-risk status.

“Especially with our third-party fiduciary agent, the acting superintendent and I and the vice chair have been working with them on that issue. There is a lot of things that we are dealing with the U.S. Department of Education,” Mendiola said.

GDOE and the GEB officials were notified by the federal partner that there will be an event next week that will bring together the USDOE high-risk team that visited Guam recently. The board eventually approved travel for the meeting.

“What I am asking the board is for support because we are coming to a critical juncture of this high-risk status. If you recall, we received a letter from the U.S. Department of Education, they basically (said) we did all these wonderful things. We received the letter back from them saying they needed some clarification,” Mendiola said. “We have some serious questions that we need to ask of the leadership of (USDOE).”

In the past, the school board granted the chair’s request to make a priority of removal of GDOE from high-risk status and eliminating the need for a third-party fiduciary.

“This trip that is going out, the superintendent, myself and Mr. (Franklin) Cooper-Nurse (GDOE’s deputy superintendent of finance), to basically go out there and put forth another case for the Department of Education and to ensure that this goal line is not moving. We are responding to the reevaluation plan, which is a commitment that we had with the U.S. Ed that if we stick to this plan, we will no longer have to keep adding more stuff that they continue to pile on like they’ve done for many years,” Mendiola told the GEB.

The chair said he believes the trip is an opportunity to get ahead and present the school system's case to the U.S. Department of Education.

Mendiola sought approval from the board for him and Santos to travel and meet with USDOE next week in Nevada.

But, prior to a vote being taken, board member Robert Crisostomo questioned the close timing of the trip with the last trip to meet with federal leadership, and whether it means GDOE is closer to its goal.

Mendiola clarified for Crisostomo that there is forward movement, and that certain issues needing clarification justify the trip.

“There are certain things that I think we need to bring to their attention in terms of our third-party (fiduciary), the amount of money that we are spending to oversee the federal dollars being spent within GDOE. In addition to that, I think we need to have this current administration, which has been moving a lot of things forward for us regarding this high-risk status,” Mendiola said.

He noted USDOE is debating whether Guam's public school system needs more oversight.

“We are moving forward, but there are certain things that have come out that we need to address in this meeting and that’s going to require the board’s approval,” he said.

In the end, the motion to allow the trip was approved by the board.

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