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Teachers Go On Strike In The St. Thomas St. John School District

Sharon McCollum

CHARLOTTE AMALIE — Teachers went out strike without warning on St. Thomas today, according to the Virgin Islands Department of Education.

In light of the “unscheduled job action,” the Education Department dismissed all public schools in the St. Thomas St. John district early today.

At least 300 disgruntled teachers blocked traffic to protest low wages in front of the Legislature on St. Thomas.

The chief negotiator for Gov. Kenneth Mapp has told teachers that the Virgin Islands government cannot afford to pay raises and retroactive monies due at the same time.

The American Federation of Teachers Union says that their representatives have seen a document asking teachers to give up the retroactive pay owed to them in return for their raises, causing the impromptu protest.

Sen. Marvin Blyden stopped to talk to striking teachers whol told him that they have “deplorable working conditions,” are forced to buy classroom supplies with their own money, have low salaries, and were disgusted with being asked to forego retro pay in lieu of wage increases.

“I totally feel the position of the teachers that stood in front of the Legislature, and I respect the fact that they took a stance so that their voices could be heard,” Blyden said.

Education Commissioner Sharon McCollum said that the “Virgin Islands Department of Education acknowledges the fact that all of our employees are due pay raises and do extraordinary work often under difficult circumstances. We have some of the finest employees in the Territory who can stand equal and above their counterparts nationally. It cannot be said enough how much we appreciate the commitment and passion our employees demonstrate on a daily basis.”

“We are asking the members of the American Federation of Teachers to move their concerns to the bargaining process,” McCollum said. “The disruption of learning is a no-win for everyone involved. The disturbance negatively impacts our students, parents, employers, professional relationships and more. We need all hands on deck as we “Transform Education Through Teamwork.”

McCollum said that she “strongly encourage(s) all of our employees to return to their worksites.”

“The focus must remain on addressing the needs of our students. I am certain all matters can and will be resolved in a manner that is mutually agreeable,” she said. “I want to thank Department of Education staff who stepped in today to provide a safe and nurturing environment for students. Classes will operate at their normal times on Wednesday, April 20.”

Students were fed lunch before dismissals began, Education officials said. School buses arrived to take students to their regular drop-off locations, except for the schools noted that will not have bus service.

The Education Department said that parents can pick up their children at the specified dismissal time.

Also, parents “are reminded to ensure students are properly supervised for the remainder of the day,” the department said in the prepared statement.

More information will be furnished later today regarding the status of the schools tomorrow, according to the department.

STUDENT DISMISSAL

Cancryn………………..1:20

CAHS…………………1:20

BCB……………………1:00

Eudora Kean…………..1:15

Sprauve………………..1:00

EWAA…………………1:00 (dismissal, no bus service)

Abraham………………1:15

Muller…………………1:15

Dober………………….1:15

Tuitt……………………1:00 (dismissal, no bus service)

Sibilly…………………1:15

Lockhart……………….1:15

EBO……………………1:15

Gomez………………….1:15

Bowsky…………………1:15

teachers protest STT large

Teachers also took the wildcat protest to Government House in St. Thomas.

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The Author

John McCarthy

John McCarthy

John McCarthy has been reporting on the U.S. Virgin Islands and the Caribbean region since 1989. John's articles have appeared in the BVI Beacon, St. Croix Avis, San Juan Star and Virgin Islands Daily News. He is originally from Detroit, Michigan.

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