VIDEO: With New Funding Assurances, Guahan Academy Announces August 19th Start Date

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Guam – After more than 2 years of trying to open its doors, Guahan Academy Charter School [GACS] has set a start date of August 19th, after receiving fresh funding assurances from both the Administration and Guam lawmakers.

 

DOE Superintendent Jon Fernandez dealt a blow to GACS’s hopes to open earlier this week when he sent a letter to Education Chair Senator Judi Won Pat  saying he was “in no position” to authorize funding from Guam DOE’s limited budget for the Charter School.

However, GACS  Director Donna Dwiggins and staff met Wednesday afternoon with Speaker Won Pat, Senator Aline Yamashita, the Governor’s Chief of Staff Frank Arriola and others to work through some of the challenges. And Guahan Academy Public Relations Manager Therese Matanane says the meeting gave the school enough assurances to move forward.

“There is money now that we have that is going to be allocated to us and it allows us to start the registration process and then we’re looking forward to the opening of the school on August 19th” Matanane told PNC.

According to Matanane the charter school does not know how much funding in being allocated or what budget the money will come out of but she says the news is enough to bolster the school’s confidence that it will be able to hold on to federal grant dollars it had been at risk of loosing.

“It puts us back in good standing with those grants that were in jeopardy before so it takes care of a lot of stuff,” Matanane said. “This was like one of the biggest milestones that needed to be crossed.”

Wednesday’s meeting followed a letter sent from Department of Education Superintendent Jon Fernandez to Speaker Won Pat expressing his concerns about allocating funds from DOE’s budget for the unopened school.

While Public Law 31-233 requires the Superintendent of Education to allocate funds to charter schools Fernandez says it just wouldn’t be responsible at this time.

“Its very difficult for me as superintendent to follow this law and direct the transfer of funds away from our school system without the proper validation of their facility or the kids that are actually gonna transfer out of our schools to the new charter school” Fernandez told PNC during an interview about the letter early Wednesday afternoon.

“I just got a projection that with the increased utility rates we’re gonna need to go to the Governor and talk about the possibility of releasing some of the reserve funds just to cover those costs,” Fernandez added, expressing the financial dificulties the Department of Education faces. “We’re in a very difficult position because I have real students in real schools that need to be served.”

While he may not be willing to sign off on funding for Guahan Academy at this time, Fernandez stresses that he is a supporter of charter schools.

“I even served on the board of a charter school while I was in Washington DC,” the Superintendent said.

“One of the difficulties for this charter school is finding a facility,” Fernandez noted. “So I think the legislature should look at that and I would also recommend that they look at changing the ways in which the superintendent is involved. I’ve asked them for chartering authority myself so I can charter my own schools to align with the needs of our department. But I don’t know that I should be approving funding for other charter schools especially when its taking away from the children that I serve.”

As far as procuring a facility for Guahan Academy, Matanane says start-up funds from the local government will allow the charter school to move forward with the procurement process once again.

“Now it allows us to open the bids” she said.