Minister Dale Jenkins Ministry of Education Republic of Palau
Dear Honorable Minister Dr. Dale Jenkins:
We are writing this letter to raise our concerns regarding various issues that we have been facing in the past year since you took office, specifically the new MOE Grading System, Iowa Assessment Results and some of your initiatives that are supposed to be implemented this School Year, 2022-2023.
We all agree that there is nothing wrong with your new initiatives but we feel that any new initiatives must…
- have a good purpose, be well planned and explored thoroughly before implementation.
- be aligned with our MOE Master Plan, MOE School Rules and Regulation Handbook otherwise known as the blue book.
- be clearly discussed in a timely manner and approved by, if not all, then by the majority
of all stakeholders who are involved in the system.
- be well communicated with all stakeholders and employees (parents, teachers, principals) who are implementing these initiatives.
- ensure that those who are implementing the initiative know how, what and why.
Please allow us to remind you of your new initiatives, which you informed us of during the summer of last school year and some of the things that you are doing, of which we feel are not professional.
- Admin Plus Gradebook
-You mentioned to us in a meeting some time before the school year began that we will be implementing a new Admin Plus Gradebook. After our meeting, we did not hear anything about Admin Plus Gradebook until recent weeks. During these past few weeks, you sent several websites of Admin Plus Grade Book without any direction as to what we were supposed to do.
-You have had several short meetings/trainings for teachers and principals over google meet or zoom, thinking that it was enough for everyone to grasp what is to be done. And during all these short meetings and training sessions, you are always in a rush so there was no time for questions. If one was lucky enough to ask a question, your answer would be, what is it that you do not understand with a tone of voice that closes
doors for more questions and/or comments. Training for this new system should not be done virtually and not during instructional time where teachers are in class. Virtual meetings are not effective as not all concerned individuals are able to participate due to a number of reasons: conflict of time, unstable Wi-Fi or internet connection. Virtual
meetings to discuss a new initiative also limit interaction among participants who would be able to ask each other questions and work with each other to learn about this new system.
-First quarter ends on Friday, September 16, 2022, and yet the majority of parents are not aware of this new system and most teachers and principals have no idea on how to go about using the Admin Plus Gradebook. Most schools still do not have access and do not know how to use or get into Admin Plus Gradebook System and you keep insisting that it is easy and we should start implementing it.
-Teachers utilize report card days at the end of the quarter to meet with parents to discuss how their child is doing. We also utilize this time to strengthen our relationships with our parents. Utilizing the admin plus where we only email parents report cards will remove this important time where we get to connect with parents.
- New Grading Scale
-We feel that changing the Grading Scale is a policy issue that requires attention, discussions, and approval from key stakeholders. With the new grading scale, you have lowered the minimum passing grade from 65% to 60% and this must be justified. We also feel that MOE must conduct PTA/PTSA hearings with this initiative.
-Remember that you changed the minimum passing grade from 65% to 60% after public elementary schools sent out their Mid-Quarter Progress reports using the old grading system.
-For Palau High School, Admin Plus must capture the different grade weights of their CTE course activities in order for them to utilize the program.
-Our only high school follows a specific grade breakdown in their various course guides. The new grading scale deviates from the grades teachers have collected since the beginning of the school year. This sudden change in our grading scale will definitely have a great impact on all course guides of every subject taught in our only public high school. Elementary schools have already distributed Mid quarter reports for the first quarter utilizing the old grading scale. This is a big change that is in conflict with Palau MOE Bluebook.
-We feel that new changes/initiatives are not communicated or shared with the MOE Management Team and Principals in a timely manner. They are dictated to everyone by yourself and the Director of the Bureau of Curriculum and Instruction.
- AR (Accelerated Reading)
-AR or Accelerated Reading has been one of the most popular topics among the principals and teachers. This is one of your initiatives that you mentioned so many times. You also have sent a couple of websites and have had what you thought were
training sessions for teachers and principals, but instead, the sessions consisted of sharing among schools in the United States on how AR have impacted their students. There was no part of the so-called “training” that had helped teachers and principals understand this program and how to implement it in our schools. Teachers and Principals are still confused on how to access and how to use the AR (Accelerated Reading) Program, yet, it is in the school daily class schedule.
-You requested teachers to label their books or library books that supposedly can be used during the AR period. Most books in our school libraries or in our classrooms are not compatible with the books used in AR programs. The program is still pending and teachers are now using AR period to enhance what they teach or read in other class periods.
-In an email to us principals in July of this year, you asked us to have our 4th to 8th grade students label books in libraries and classrooms so they can be utilized in the AR Program. We feel that this responsibility should not fall on our students. Proper planning would have allowed us to have teachers and staff label books during the summer.
-This is another initiative that you mentioned to take the place of an existing program called Achieve 3000. A few weeks ago, you asked principals if they have started the implementation of this program and no one raised their hands. No schools are using or have started the BEABLE program. There was only one short training that took place at Teachers’ Training Center but it was not clear enough to begin the program in our schools.
-We were also requested to submit a list of tablets/Chromebooks that are not in working condition. We submitted this list before school started and have yet to receive replacements for these items. This is another reason we are unable to implement the AR Program and BEABLE as well.
-Again, we feel that the new changes/initiatives are not communicated or shared with the MOE management team and principals in a timely manner. They are dictated to everyone by yourself and the Director of the Bureau of Curriculum and Instruction.
- School Zoning
-We also would like to inform you that the school zoning was not discussed with parents before its implementation. You said to the principals that if any parents ask questions regarding school zoning, we can explain it ourselves but if not, we can give them your cell phone number or refer them to you. We just want to make it clear that at the school level, that is not how we communicate with our parents. We call PTA/PTSA meetings, we discuss any changes with them, we get their input and then implement new initiatives. It is really hard for principals to deny any parents who insist on enrolling
their kids in a particular school knowing that there was no clear communication or law pertaining to school zoning.
- Changing School Hours
-Another issue that we would like to raise is when you decided to change school hours from 8:00am to 2:30pm to 8:00am to 3:15pm. You did not meet with all stakeholders to get their opinion and ideas when making this change. You just decided to increase a school day by 45 minutes and expected schools to implement this idea. Even today, we believe you do not realize the impact it has had on schools. Teachers now lack planning and preparation time that they used to have and this has greatly impacted how teachers teach. They teach from 8:00am to 3:15pm, then they get their students ready to go home and begin after school supervision. For the majority of teachers, once they are done with after school supervision, it is 4:15 to 4:30pm and it is time for them to go home. They lack the much-needed time after school to prepare for the next day and
thus they have to bring their work home with them and this eats into their own personal
time of which they are not compensated for the work they do.
-The extension of the school day was to allow for a full class period for the AR Program and to increase PE Classes from once a week to at least three times a week. The intent of increasing PE Classes to at least three times a week was to address our NCO crisis. You also told us that we would hire more PE teachers to address these classes and this has not happened. Therefore, the intent was great as it was to address a nationwide issue, however, the planning for implementation was greatly lacking.
- Kindergarten/1st Grade
-Without proper planning, we were mandated to implement Kindergarten in all public schools. Teachers have not been trained to teach kindergarten and you also stated that we would hire new teachers to teach this grade level. Teachers now have to deal with students who do not know how to go to the restroom on their own and teachers do not have assistance. They have to leave the entire class and tend to a student who needs help in the restroom.
-Because new teachers were not hired, some schools are also expected to combine kindergarten and 1st grade classes. This is an unrealistic expectation. Kindergarten is being taught using a thematic learning approach while 1st grade is being taught using standards and benchmarks. How do you expect one teacher to teach a class like this?
-You have also told some schools to combine grades which has been done in the past. The only difference is you have not provided training to teachers who are new to multigrade classrooms. You are expecting teachers to combine very different grade levels and teach them accordingly. How can you teach one class that is a class of 4th graders and 7th graders at the same time?
-Before the school year began, we were given two different surveys. One was an intention form asking who would be returning to work in the upcoming year and also which intersession an employee would want to apply for leave. Many of our employees chose to take leave during the various intersessions and yet the schedule that has been sent out to us for the intersessions seems like all training sessions and other activities have been scheduled to take place during intersessions.
-PE teachers and bus drivers work past working hours during PE events during the quarter and are not compensated for their time and it seems that they will be expected to work during intersessions for the PE activities that have been scheduled.
-Another issue we have with having these events during intersession is that first of all, students should have the opportunity to take a break without missing out on attending MOE sponsored activities. Because school is out, it will also be difficult to gather students to participate in these events.
-Another survey asked us when we preferred training sessions should take place. The majority of us concluded that training sessions should not take place during intersessions. The majority of teachers wanted to have training sessions held during PLC time. However, PLC time has been compromised due to the extension of school hours. This again, shows the lack of planning and clear communication from the central office.
-One of the highlights mentioned regarding the year-round school year and having intersessions was that it would allow teachers and students to take a break between the different quarters and yet it seems like the intersessions are still being conducted like regular school days, except that not all students come to school. lntersessions were also a time where teachers would be given the opportunity to help students who needed assistance during intersessions. However, we are currently deviating from what was presented to everyone to entice them to agree with the year-round school year.
- Iowa Assessment
-We just want to get this off our chest, that in one of our zoom meetings, you mentioned that because of these “new initiatives”, we have an increased result in our Iowa assessment this year compared to last year’s results. We also want to make it clear that students have been taking the Iowa assessment for a couple of years already. It was not being graded toward their report card grades and is not well aligned with some of our learning objectives. This recent test, teachers administered the test thoroughly and students took it seriously because you stated that it was really
important and that “most” of our kids can’t read, with an implication that previous MOE
Management Team, principals and teachers were not doing a good job. You stated during a talk show you had at Palau Wave Radio Station, that only a few of our teachers had degrees which is why our Iowa scores were low. Your comment insinuated that
MOE employees, especially teachers, who worked really hard to ensure that students receive quality education were not doing their jobs and because you and your new initiatives have arrived at MOE, our students are now improving. Do you know how many of our kids can read? Do you know how many of our kids have graduated from college and have returned home? Please remember that whatever we do in our school
system to raise the bar, teachers are the main reason why our kids excel, not supervisors
nor new initiatives.
- Lack of Communication/School Visits
-Again, we feel that new changes/initiatives are not communicated or shared with the MOE management team and principals in a timely manner. They are dictated to everyone by yourself and the Director of the Bureau of Curriculum and Instruction.
-You once told the principals not to expect your response to any of their emails and that is true. Several have emailed you and have never received a response.
-There is ZERO GENUINE COMMUNICATION! Having 20 minutes meetings through google or zoom, one way street communication, emailing and not responding to any emails, not letting anyone express their thoughts, never having time to LISTEN…This is not communication.
-Last week Friday, there were two virtual trainings going on at the same time. One was a virtual meeting with you and the other training was with Director Kilcullen. We were expected to attend both of these training sessions and our teachers were expected to attend one of the training sessions as well. This training happened during instructional time and how could we expect our teachers to attend while they were teaching? This is another example of a lack of communication that seems to be the norm under your leadership.
-The majority of communication we receive from you is through email only and this may be fine if you were sending us emails regarding trivial information. We do not believe it is appropriate to send us emails that address policy change issues. These types of issues should be on your official letterhead with your signature on it and then you could email them to us as an attachment. There should be a certain standard that is followed regarding what can be sent in just an email and what needs to be sent as an official memorandum or letter.
- In one of the talk shows that you have recently attended, you discuss how we had 21 highly qualified teachers located at the central office who, “make tests, test is given, blah blah blah.” These 21 MOE employees are not teachers, they are education specialists who had the main responsibility of providing much needed support to all teachers in Palau. Currently, you have sent them to various schools across the country some of them are now acting principals, some of them are serving as substitute teachers, while others are coaches to teachers in the specific school they are assigned
to. These specialists were available at any time to provide support to any teacher. Principals could fill technical assistance requests, and specialists would schedule a convenient time for the school and go to the school to provide requested training and support to teachers. These specialists also worked with consultants and provided training to our teachers. Now, they are doing work in various schools in various positions, and when we request for technical assistance for teachers, the central office is unable to fulfill these requests as the employees who did this much needed service for us are all over the country.
- We also feel that the rate of implementation on these new initiatives is not being taken into consideration. You wanted us to start about 6 new initiatives at the same time without extensive planning as to how you would train teachers. We feel like we are jumping from one to the other without gaining the expertise needed to implement the various initiatives. The stress level of teachers is extremely high at this time and we still expect them to come to work every day and teach our students to the best of their ability. We feel this is unfair and unacceptable.
- Unannounced visits to the school defeat the purpose of collaborative efforts toward strategic improvement of the entire school.
- Unannounced visits to the school defeat the core value of respect and trust bestowed upon principals that oversee daily school operations.
- Appointments and designations of acting to the schools without consultation with school principals is another area that shows a lack of clear communication.
- Ministry of Education Organizational Chart
-You are in authority to reorganize the ministry but please communicate to inform the principals that you have reorganized. You mentioned during one zoom meeting that all principals will be directly under your supervision and that all requested leave will be for you to sign. Later, we found out from one of us that you are no longer
approving/signing our leave requests, and it is the BCI director. Are there any other new protocols that we should know about?
-What we would like to know is their documentation as to who our immediate supervisor is and who should sign our leave requests.
-To date, we have yet to receive a copy of the new organizational chart and yet we are expected to follow it.
Minister, with all these concerns, we would like to request that …
- We continue issuing paper report cards to parents until we have been fully trained with the Admin Plus Gradebook.
- We continue to utilize the original grading scale until we have had the chance to meet and discuss why these changes were made, have a voice in these changes, and be given the opportunity to discuss changes that we make to our teachers, parents, and most importantly our students.
- We return to the original school hours – 8:00am to 2:30pm until we have ironed out all issues with AR and PE Scheduling.
- A formal training will be conducted for the Admin Plus Gradebook, the Accelerated Reading Program (AR) and the BEABLE program. We believe that everyone who is involved in implementing these new initiatives should be fully knowledgeable about these programs before we are mandated to implement them.
- We have meetings amongst ourselves and with our stakeholders before making decisions on issues that affect them. (e.g., School Zoning, New Grading Scale, Admin Plus Gradebook, etc.)
- There be a more genuine form of communication amongst all stakeholders in the Ministry instead of just being told what to do without any support from you as a Minister.
- All education specialists return to their original roles and responsibilities. In the past, when we needed technical assistance or training, we knew exactly who to go to and what procedures we needed to follow to get the support we needed. Now that the education specialists have been assigned different roles and responsibilities, we are at a loss on where to go to receive technical assistance for our teachers and our schools.
We could go on and on about what we want to take place, but we have listed the majority of them in this letter and at this point in our letter you have read the majority of our concerns. One of our major concerns apparent in this letter is the lack of genuine communication and professionalism from you and the Director of the Bureau of Curriculum and Instruction. We are not stating our concerns because we want to stay in the past. As an education system, we are aware that we must change to keep up with the ever-changing world. In the past, the MOE management team and all school principals had a respectful and professional relationship with each other where we worked together to decide on what was best for the Ministry. Unfortunately, we have not been part of the decision-making process and other members of the management team have also been left in the dark. We are being told what to do without
any level of respect and professionalism for our own expertise in the field of education in Palau.
We believe that as educators, ensuring that our students receive the greatest education they can is a right and we also have the responsibility to ensure that as a school system, we all work together to provide this right to our children. We believe that addressing these issues, improving our communication and working together as a team will allow us to achieve this.
Attached are our signatures along with those of our teachers, and we are requesting to receive a response from you addressing all of the concerns we have stated above by this Friday September 16, 2022.
Palau Public School Principals and Teachers
Cc: His Excellency President Surangel Whipps Jr.
Honorable Vice President/Minister of Justice Uduch Sengebau Senior Honorable Senator Andrew Tabelual
Honorable Senator Topps Sungino
Honorable Delegate Yutaka Gibbons Jr. Attorney General Ernestine Rengiil MOE Management Team
School PTA Officers
Belau Family School Community Association (BFSCA)