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UVI Staff Seek $1.3 Million from Senate Amid Rising Turnover Concerns

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In a meticulously penned letter on September 4, the leadership of the University of the Virgin Islands’ arm of the American Association of University Professors (UVI-AAUP) formally approached the Senate Committee on Budget, Appropriations, and Finance. Their primary goal? To echo UVI President David Hall’s request for an augmentation of $1.3 million to the FY2024 budget, specifically for enhancing faculty salaries.

Sources from the Consortium in the previous month highlighted President Hall’s primary grievance: UVI’s incapacity to furnish academic experts with salaries that can compete on the market. Shockingly, this deficit in compensation has cascaded into a daunting 50% faculty turnover in the preceding half-decade. UVI-AAUP’s letter deepens the narrative, revealing how this wage gap hasn’t merely led to empty faculty chairs but has also, in some cases, obligated the institution to settle for less qualified educators. This, naturally, places the UVI’s educational standards in jeopardy.

A pressing issue pinpointed by UVI-AAUP is the perceived inequity in the government’s financial behavior towards UVI’s employees. The letter showcases Governor Bryan’s notable allocation of $18 million, set aside in his FY 2024 budget, to ensure a 3% salary increment for the entire governmental workforce. The striking omission here? UVI wasn’t on the list of beneficiaries. This exclusion feels particularly sharp, considering the 8% wage reduction that UVI faculty weathered in 2011, alongside their governmental peers—though they were rightfully compensated for this deduction in 2021.

Peering further back, the UVI-AAUP underscores a lingering problem: UVI faculty wages have been battling the rising tide of inflation since 2004. That year, the merit-based pay scale, once cherished by educators, was disassembled by UVI’s Board of Trustees. A gleam of hope appeared in 2020 with the negotiation of a Collective Bargaining Agreement. This pact aimed to anchor UVI salaries at a minimum, placing the institution in the 40th percentile of US higher education salary brackets. However, the glow was short-lived, as this agreement reached its end in August 2022. The aftermath? Faculty now operate without the assurance of a union contract, hamstrung by negotiation deadlocks.

To circumnavigate this persistent issue, UVI-AAUP doesn’t merely raise concerns; they propose a solution. Addressed to the Finance Committee, their proposition is straightforward yet potentially revolutionary: annually allocate to UVI a share, proportionate to the institution’s entire salary outlay and fine-tuned for core inflation. This portion would be exclusively reserved for employee wage enhancements. Implementing this, UVI-AAUP argues, could be the panacea for the university’s dwindling faculty wages, challenges in hiring and retaining top-tier talent, and the consequent slide in UVI’s educational standards.

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Education

Department of Education Seeks Approval for FEMA-Funded Rebuild of St. Croix Central High School at Upcoming CZM Meeting

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The V.I. Department of Planning and Natural Resources (DPNR) has announced a pivotal St. Croix Coastal Zone Management (CZM) Committee meeting scheduled for Thursday, June 20, at 5:30 p.m. via Microsoft Teams. Key topics include the proposed rebuilding of St. Croix Central High School using FEMA funds.

DPNR Commissioner Jean-Pierre L. Oriol stated that the agenda would highlight several vital infrastructure projects aimed at bolstering the island’s resilience and community amenities. The primary focus will be on the V.I. Department of Education’s proposal, under Federal Consistency Determination No. CZM0028-23, seeking approval to utilize FEMA funds for the demolition and reconstruction of St. Croix Central High School. This significant project, located at Track 3 Upper Bethlehem in Christiansted, represents a major initiative to modernize the island’s educational infrastructure.

The committee will also deliberate on enhancements to Highway 75. Under Federal Consistency Determination No. CZM0017-23, the V.I. Department of Public Works intends to improve roadway geometry, install underground electrical distributions, and make several other safety and accessibility improvements along the north shore road west of Christiansted.

Another major item on the agenda is the V.I. Water and Power Authority’s (WAPA) proposal, under Federal Consistency Determination No. CZM0005-24, to use FEMA funds for burying utility lines along Queen Mary Highway to VITEMA Road. This project aims to enhance the electrical power resilience for the VITEMA Headquarters and nearby residents.

Public testimony will be welcomed during the hearings on the highway and utility projects, but no testimonies will be heard during the decision meeting on the high school project.

Interested parties can participate or view the proceedings with the following meeting details:

  • Meeting ID: 290 917 297 230
  • Passcode: aoPusj

Relevant documents and additional information are available on the DPNR website under the Federal Consistency and permitting sections. This meeting highlights the Virgin Islands government’s ongoing efforts to address critical infrastructure needs by effectively leveraging federal funds to ensure the territory’s resilience and development.

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Charlotte Amalie High School Graduates Celebrate Success and Perseverance

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Charlotte Amalie High School celebrated its 93rd graduation ceremony on Thursday, with 187 graduates, known as Chicken Hawks, gathering in the school auditorium alongside family, friends, and well-wishers.

Principal Angel Petrus hailed the year as one of “great accomplishments and moments to be proud of and to celebrate.” Rather than dwelling on the disruptions caused by the pandemic, Petrus highlighted notable achievements. These included the JROTC battalion’s victory in the inter-island drill competition, triumphs in the territorial moot court competition, and championship titles in basketball, volleyball, and soccer. Academically, the class excelled with 113 students graduating with honors and 42 receiving high honors. Additionally, 51 seniors were inducted into the National Honor Society, and six were recognized as AP scholars. Three students gained early admission to the University of the Virgin Islands, and 71 obtained certifications in technical and vocational subjects.

District Superintendent Dr. Stefan Jurgen emphasized the power of self-belief in his address before presenting awards to the valedictorian and salutatorian. “If you believe you can, or cannot – you’re absolutely correct… It’s the power of your mind,” he remarked.

Education Commissioner Dr. Dionne Wells-Hedrington encouraged graduates to embrace their unique gifts. “One of the things I think that we struggle with today is trying to fit into some kind of mold of what a successful person looks like,” she said. “All of us were born to be unique; that’s why we all look different. We’re not meant to fit into anybody’s mold.”

Salutatorian Karra Henderson reflected on her transition from a small private middle school to a large public high school. She credited her success to her hard work and the support system around her. “This recognition is not just a testament to my hard work and dedication, but also the incredible support system that has surrounded me,” she said, calling her high school experience transformative.

Valedictorian Maleah Davis acknowledged the challenges faced by her classmates. “The two years of isolation brought with us an uneasiness and loneliness that time has yet to fix,” she said. However, she expressed pride in her peers, noting the diverse futures ahead of them, from entrepreneurs to healthcare professionals.

Keynote speaker Ivo Philbert, a 1984 CAHS alumnus, praised the resilience of the graduating class and urged them to remain true to their identity as Chicken Hawks. “You got this, because you are Chicken Hawks,” he said. Philbert highlighted successful Virgin Islanders like Aliyah Boston and Theron Thomas, urging graduates not to feel limited by their island background.

Governor Albert Bryan Jr. praised the school’s “culture of excellence” and stressed the importance of community support. He commended the graduates for their achievements and encouraged them to remain bold and authentic. “You have many mountains to climb and many, many, many graduation stages to walk across. Be bold, be yourself,” he concluded.

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A Generation of Trailblazers: IKEHS 2024 Graduates Lead with Academic Distinction

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In a jubilant ceremony on Thursday, 181 seniors of Ivanna Eudora Kean High School (IKEHS) proudly crossed the gymnasium stage to receive their diplomas.

This year’s graduating class has set a remarkable academic benchmark, with Principal Sally Petty highlighting its achievements in her opening remarks. She noted that 25% of the graduates earned high honors, while an additional 29% received honors. Impressively, 87% of the class is set to pursue post-secondary education.

The IKEHS Class of 2024 also boasts the highest proficiency rates in English Language Arts, Math, and Science across the territory, according to the 2023 Smarter Balanced State Standardized Assessments. Their exceptional performance has garnered $2.1 million in scholarships. Additionally, 52% of this year’s graduates are boys, marking one of the largest cohorts of male graduates in the school’s history.

Principal Petty encouraged the graduates to take pride in their accomplishments and embrace the opportunities ahead. “The world you’re entering is full of opportunities and possibilities,” she said, urging them to be confident in their ability to achieve great things.

Class salutatorian Nillia John-Pierre, 17, described the Class of 2024 as “the chosen ones who are survivors of Irma, Maria, and COVID-19.” She shared four guiding principles for success—aptitude, altitude, attitude, and ambition—and advised her peers to remain grateful for the support of family, friends, and teachers.

Valedictorian Darnell Birmingham, who will attend the Berklee College of Music in Boston, echoed the theme of gratitude and thanked his support network. He encouraged his classmates to use negativity as motivation. “Take the discouragement as encouragement and motivation to prove them wrong,” he said, likening their struggles to the transformative process of a caterpillar becoming a butterfly.

Governor Albert Bryan Jr. praised Birmingham’s achievements, humorously expressing his admiration. “I want to be Darnell Birmingham when I grow up,” he joked, celebrating Birmingham’s recent national recognition.

Dr. Muria Nisbett, a 1999 IKEHS alumna and the event’s keynote speaker, shared her inspiring journey from teen motherhood to earning a doctorate. She emphasized resilience in the face of challenges and the transformative power of education. “Success is not a straight path,” she said, encouraging graduates to pursue their passions with determination and to give back to their communities.

Dr. Nisbett concluded with a powerful message: “The world is waiting on you to make your mark. Find what you’re passionate about and pursue it with all your heart.”

The IKEHS Class of 2024 stands poised to make significant contributions, embodying the school’s tradition of excellence and resilience.

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