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Addressing Teacher Safety: A Swift Response from the Department of Education to Incidents at Lockhart K-8 School



Law enforcement officers ensure a smooth dismissal process at Lockhart K-8 School. Courtesy of V.I. CONSORTIUM.

In response to recent concerns raised by educators at Lockhart K-8 School, including a teacher job action that led to an early dismissal for students in grades 4 through 8, the V.I. Department of Education has swiftly addressed the growing unease among its staff. This action came on the heels of alarming reports detailing violence and threats aimed at educators by students and, in some cases, their parents.

The heart of the issue lies in a series of troubling incidents at the school, which include threats and actual violence against teachers. The situation reached a tipping point on Wednesday, prompting the Department of Education to release a comprehensive statement acknowledging the severity of the matter.

Leontyne Jones, the President of the St. Thomas-St. John District AFT, outlined the contributing factors to this job action, citing a breakdown in communication between teachers and the school’s administration, infrastructural concerns, and, most importantly, the safety of the school’s educators. According to Jones, “There have been instances where students have threatened or even assaulted teachers.”

Shenica Grant, standing in solidarity with the educators, called for strong disciplinary measures against those responsible for the threats. Highlighting the issue of indiscipline among students, she criticized the role of parents in either neglecting or exacerbating their children’s behavior. Grant firmly stated, “It’s not acceptable for students to disrespect adults, threaten violence, or exhibit prejudice. These actions demand expulsion, not just suspension.”

The community has largely echoed Grant’s sentiments, as evidenced by feedback to the V.I. Consortium’s reporting on the matter. An incident where a teacher was followed home has particularly alarmed parents and community members, underlining the urgent need for a resolution to ensure teacher safety.

St. Thomas Police Chief Steven Phillip confirmed that officers were present at the school to ensure a peaceful dismissal process on Wednesday. Although there have been no formal complaints to the police, the issue has clearly resonated within the community.

The Department of Education has assured that normal school operations will resume, with a renewed focus on managing student behavior and enhancing disciplinary measures. Commissioner Wells-Hedrington and AFT President Jones have met with the affected teachers to discuss a way forward. “Disruptive behavior disrupts learning and compromises safety. Our priority is to ensure that our educational spaces are secure, allowing teaching and learning to proceed without fear,” stated Wells-Hedrington.

Wells-Hedrington’s commitment to the safety and security of teachers and students alike highlights the Department’s resolve to address these issues head-on. Furthermore, the Department stresses the crucial role of parents and guardians in the educational process, advocating for dialogue and cooperation over violence and threats.

This collective response from educators, law enforcement, and the Department of Education underscores a community united in its effort to maintain a safe and conducive learning environment for all.

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Former Atlanta Mayor Keisha Lance Bottoms to Address UVI Graduates at 60th Commencement



The University of the Virgin Islands has proudly announced that Keisha Lance Bottoms, the esteemed former Mayor of Atlanta and previous senior advisor in the White House Office of Public Engagement, will grace its 60th Commencement Ceremonies as the keynote speaker. These milestone events are set to unfold on May 9 at the Orville E. Kean Campus on St. Thomas, and on May 10 at the Albert A. Sheen Campus on St. Croix, with both commencements beginning at 1:00 p.m.

Bottoms, whose career spans various echelons of government, made significant strides during her mayoral tenure beginning January 2, 2018. She adeptly steered Atlanta through tumultuous times, including the Covid-19 pandemic and the zenith of the racial justice movement, underscoring her pivotal role in tackling pressing urban issues and seizing opportunities within the United States.

The University of the Virgin Islands commends Lance Bottoms for her leadership, which propelled Atlanta towards notable economic resilience and growth amidst the pandemic’s challenges. Notably, her administration achieved balanced budgets across four years without increasing property taxes or reducing city personnel, all while bolstering city reserves to a robust $181 million. Her time in office was characterized by economic advancements for Atlanta, highlighted by the attraction of nine Fortune 500 company headquarters and the execution of initiatives aimed at systemic reforms to improve the lives of city residents.

Lance Bottoms’ administration made headline-worthy strides, including repurposing Atlanta’s jail into a center for diversion, abolishing cash bail for non-violent crimes, and the creation of over 7,000 affordable housing units. Her leadership was pivotal in advancing diversity and inclusion, through the establishment of new police and fire stations and substantial law enforcement reforms.

With Dr. David Hall, who is concluding a remarkable 15-year tenure as UVI President, at the helm, the university looks forward to Lance Bottoms sharing her journey and insights. Her story of impactful leadership and dedication to fostering an equitable and inclusive society is set to inspire the Class of 2024.

Keisha Lance Bottoms’ illustrious career and dedication to public service have garnered her widespread acclaim, including being named a Distinguished Civil Rights Advocate by the Lawyers’ Committee for Civil Rights Under Law, one of Glamour Magazine’s Women of the Year, and securing a spot in Ebony Magazine’s Power 100 List.

As the daughter of R&B legend Major Lance, Keisha Lance Bottoms shares her life with her husband Derek Bottoms and their four children, embodying the roles of a committed public servant, spouse, and parent with grace and dedication.

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UVI Empowers Future Female Leaders to Tackle Social Issues in Annual Conference and Competition



At the University of the Virgin Islands (UVI), the College of Liberal Arts and Social Sciences successfully hosted its second annual “Young Ladies Learning to Lead” Conference and Competition. This innovative program is designed to empower high school girls from across the territory by equipping them with essential knowledge and skills for both personal and professional growth. The initiative also serves as a platform for them to showcase their leadership capabilities.

The event attracted a diverse group of female students from various high schools who initially took part in a conference dedicated to the development of self-esteem, empathy, authenticity, and an array of leadership styles. They were also trained on effective teamwork, public speaking, and preparation for academic pursuits beyond high school.

Following the conference held in late February, participants were given a month to prepare for the competition. The challenge required them to apply their newly acquired skills to devise solutions for social issues affecting the Virgin Islands, as highlighted by event committee chair Anna Clarke. The criteria stipulated that the social problems chosen should be addressable through the collective effort of the participants or the wider community, without expecting government intervention, and aimed at achieving tangible results.

On March 27, during the competition, contestants presented their proposals to a panel of judges. The standout presentation was by Savanna Holley of Good Hope Country Day School, who focused on combating youth apathy towards environmental concerns. She outlined significant issues such as the excessive use of single-use plastics, waste management challenges, and the pressing need for more accessible recycling options, coupled with the overarching threat of climate change.

Holley proposed a comprehensive strategy to engage and educate young people through community service, solution-focused discussions, educational clubs, and formal schooling. She emphasized the importance of fostering a sense of individual and communal responsibility towards the environment, predicting that such educational and empowerment initiatives would lead to heightened environmental activism among the youth.

The judges praised the high quality of all presentations, awarding Nadjah Jn Phillip of Gifft Hill School second place for her examination of social media’s impact on Virgin Islands teens, and Ne’Keyla Amey of Charlotte Amalie High School third place for her insights into dismantling the ‘who you know’ mentality for a more unified society. Donnalee Isaac of Ivanna Eudora Kean High School received an honorable mention for her exploration of abortion’s effects on VI teens.

The program invites 10th, 11th, and 12th-grade female students interested in next year’s conference and competition to contact Dr. Clarke for more information. This initiative underscores the University of the Virgin Islands’ commitment to fostering leadership and addressing community issues through youth engagement and education.

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Senator Raphael Warnock Encourages UVI Students to Champion Democracy and Civic Engagement



At a special student convocation held at the University of the Virgin Islands (UVI) on Wednesday, U.S. Senator Raphael Warnock brought humor, history, and a powerful message of activism and civic responsibility to the podium. Drawing an enthusiastic response from his audience, Warnock playfully remarked on the university’s picturesque location, setting the stage for a deeper discussion on democracy, civic engagement, and the enduring legacy of Dr. Martin Luther King Jr.

April 3, noted by Warnock, marked the 56th anniversary of Dr. King’s final public speech—a moment of reflection on the unpredictability of life and the importance of preparedness for the cause of justice. The senator from Georgia, leveraging his background as the senior pastor of Atlanta’s historic Ebenezer Baptist Church, echoed Dr. King’s commitment to nonviolent activism and the continuous struggle to fulfill America’s promise of equality and justice for all.

Warnock’s discourse navigated through the milestones of the civil rights movement, emphasizing the spiritual foundation underpinning the political and social activism that led to landmark achievements such as the integration of public spaces and the Voting Rights Act. He urged the present generation to perceive democracy as a manifestation of a spiritual belief in the inherent value and voice of every citizen, a principle he warned is currently facing significant threats.

Drawing on the wisdom of Howard Thurman, Warnock encouraged students to pursue their passions as a means of contributing to society, stressing the importance of a vibrant, engaged youth in sustaining the democratic process. He reflected on the tragic circumstances of Dr. King’s assassination in Memphis, Tennessee, in 1968, drawing parallels to contemporary challenges faced by marginalized communities.

As he shared his personal journey from a financially constrained background to achieving academic success at Morehouse College, Warnock connected his narrative to the broader African American struggle for freedom and equality, underscoring the pivotal role of the current generation in shaping the nation’s future.

In his closing remarks, Warnock juxtaposed his election to the Senate with the Capitol insurrection, framing the choice facing America as one between embracing a diverse and inclusive democracy or yielding to divisiveness and hatred. He championed the cause for greater representation for territories like the Virgin Islands in Congress, encapsulating his address with a call to action for the students to align themselves with the ideals of January 5, representing hope, unity, and democratic renewal.

Senator Warnock’s visit to UVI not only highlighted the critical importance of young people in the democratic process but also reaffirmed the interconnectedness of America’s complex history with the ongoing quest for social justice and equality.

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