Guam – Congressman Gregorio Kilili Camacho Sablan has announced that top officials from the U.S. Department of Education will make an historic visit to the Northern Mariana Islands next week at his invitation. Dr. Carl Harris, Deputy Assistant Secretary for Elementary and Secondary Education at the Department, will be in the Northern Marianas for three days, accompanied by Special Advisor Crystal Martinez. Harris will be the highest level Education official ever to come to the NMI.
“I am very glad that Dr. Harris has agreed to travel all this distance to meet with our Board of Education and Public School System officials, and with parent, teachers, and students,” Sablan said.
“For him to see first hand the accomplishments of our educators, but also the tremendous challenges they face, will certainly give Dr. Harris a much better understanding of our situation. He will be much better able to help us from his position at the U.S. Department of Education as a result of this trip.”
Dr. Harris and Ms. Martinez will be in the NMI for three full days, beginning on October 12th. Their itinerary includes one day on Tinian, where they will go to all of the public schools. They will also visit elementary, junior high, and high schools on Saipan.
On the final evening, Thursday, October 14th, there will be a Town Hall hosted by Congressman Sablan and PSS, where the Education Department officials can hear about education in the NMI directly from parents, students, and anyone from the general public who wants to attend.
Harris and Martinez will also be able to discuss President Obama and Secretary of Education Arne Duncan’s vision for the future of education in the United States.
“It is vitally important that our students, parents, teachers, and administrators here in the Northern Marianas take this opportunity to join in our national educational debate,” said Congressman Sablan. “I hope that what Dr. Harris hears and learns here will become part of the policy discussions and decisions he will make back in Washington.”
Sablan met with Harris and Martinez last month to go over the details of the trip. At the meeting he also invited Harris to consider using the Northern Marianas as a laboratory to explore innovative ideas in education.
“We have exceptional teachers, administrators, and students here in the NMI,” Sablan said. “They are able to produce amazing results, often with limited resources. I told Dr. Harris about the Manta Rays band, for example, and how given the opportunity, our students have the drive, vision, and talent to make it all the way to Carnegie hall.
“The same is true in every aspect of our students’ educational experience — given the tools they need, our students can excel. I know he will be able to see that when he speaks to them, and I look forward to his visit.”
Dr. Carl Harris works in policy and strategic initiatives in the office of Elementary and Secondary Education. Before taking his post at the Department of Education, Harris was a teacher and a principal, as well as the school superintendent in Durham, North Carolina and Franklin County, North Carolina.