DON ALLEN FARRELL - Saipan Tribune - 09/05/2005
By | Posted on Sep 15 2005
Married to: Carmen Muna Dela Cruz of Tinian.
Children: We have three children and eight grandchildren, two at Tinian High School, where I taught, and three at Tinian Elementary School, where my wife teaches.
Background: I was born in Redmond, Oregon in the southern Klamath Valley on July 28, 1947, a war baby. My biological father served in the Army and my stepfather in the Navy, both during World War II. My mother came from the cotton fields of Lawton, Oklahoma.
Elementary & High School: Garfield Elementary School in Spokane, Washington, Lincoln Jr. High School at Billings, Montana, Shattuck Military academy in Minnesota and graduated with honors from Hillcrest High School in Salt Lake City in 1965. “I enlisted in the United States Air Force immediately after graduation, and mustered out at General Billy Mitchell Field in Milwaukee, Wisconsin in 1971.”
College: Bachelor of Arts degree in Biology from California State University at Fullerton in 1974, and secondary teaching credential from Cal State San Bernardino a year later.
I was immediately accepted for a teaching position at Rim of the World High School above San Bernardino, California, where I taught Biology until moving to Guam in January 1977 as a replacement teacher for those who abandoned the island in the wake of Typhoon Pamela.
I taught at Inarajan Junior High, and then John F. Kennedy High School on Guam, leaving the Department of Education in 1980 to work as public relations officer for Senator Kurt Moylan.
After two years with Senator Moylan, I served four years as Chief of Staff to Carl Gutierrez, then Speaker of the Guam Legislature, later Governor of Guam.
In 1987, I moved my family from Guam to Tinian and taught at the old Tinian Jr./Sr. High School, until I was hired by the Public School System to write and produce the textbook for History of the Northern Mariana Islands.
I have taught classes at high schools on four Mariana Islands, as well as at all three Northern Marianas College campuses.
I was elected to the CNMI Board of Education from Tinian in 1993, serving as chairman from 1996 to 1997. I consider my greatest accomplishment then to be the removal of the dual wage system for teachers, and increasing the salary for local techers to its current level.
I returned to the Public School System at taught at Tinian High School for an additional two years.
I have been retired for the last two years, working on a new book.
What would you consider the top three issues or concerns facing the CNMI educational system that demand immediate action?
There are many concerns facing the CNMI educational system, that demand immediate action, however, I would rate the top three as:
1. The budgeting process
2. Proper evaluation and management of principals
3. Proper support for teachers, including job protection, salary adjustments, classroom support, extracurricular programs, especially athletics, and proper recruiting for new professionally trained teachers to maintain moral among faculties and eliminate individual teacher duty overloads.
How can the Public School System resolve its lack of funding in a manner less dependent on the central government?
There is no need to create an additional funding source for public education in the CNMI, and there should not be. The funding for compulsory, free public education in America is based on the concept that it is good for the community in general to pay for the education of its youth so that every young person has the opportunity to become a productive member of the community, prepared to earn their own living and not become a social burden. Public education is and will remain a funding obligation of the central government, both locally and federally.
The delegates to the Second CNMI Constitutional Convention were correct when they recognized that the Public School System must be politically autonomous. Unfortunately, the delegates did not go far enough. They did not mandate a process that would also make the PSS fiscally autonomous. Every year, it is the politics of budgeting that upsets the smooth delivery of quality education in the CNMI.
The Constitution needs to be amended to make the Public School System fiscally autonomous.
What do you think must be done to resolve the lingering questions over teacher retention and tenure?
The board must adopt a policy that no education professional working for the Public School System can be terminated or have their contract not renewed without cause. Education professionals can only be hired or terminated by the Commissioner of Education, with a proper grievance policy in place, so that the Board of Education can properly review any case that the Commissioner cannot resolve. Therefore, annual teacher evaluations by principals are a must.
Teachers are professionals who must have job security and must be treated with respect by principals as the professionals they are, or they will look for another school district.
To properly manage the education professionals at all schools, all principals must meet the qualifications established by the Board of Education, and Commissioner of Education must evaluate every principal and vice-principal properly twice a year.
The principal of every school should be a highly qualified professional educator who has sufficient classroom experience to understand the needs of teachers. Every principal must be dedicated to supplying the needs of the teacher in the classroom, not only in academics, but also in the entire scope of holistic education, including extracurricular activities, and interscholastic athletic competition.
Improving the quality of principals will improve the quality and dedication of the teaching and support staff at every school.
Do this, and the good teachers, satisfied by support from their principal and the central staff, will want to remain in the Marianas and carry over their skills from year to year, rather than move to another school or another school district where they are better appreciated.
What is your vision for the Public School System in the CNMI? What are the steps that must be taken to achieve that vision?
I believe the CNMI Public School System could become a model of public education in the Pacific.
The student population is relatively homogeneous, compared to those in transient America.
Because of its predominate Native American population and geographic isolation, the CNMI has access to supplemental funding sources that are not available to most other American communities.
Because of the close cultural ties among the people, parental participation in education through the Parent Teacher Student Association should be very strong at every school.
The CNMI Covenant provides for annual federal CIP budgets that will continue to support the construction or re-construction of facilities, most of which are well above the standards of construction available to similar public school systems in rural America.
I sincerely believe that if certain fundamental changes are made to the CNMI Constitution, making the Public School System completely autonomous with a guaranteed annual funding source, it could become a model school system with a competitive professional educational faculty and staff. I hope to work toward this goal, if elected to the Board of education, again.