Puerto Rico governor, Senate president visit San Juan schools
SAN JUAN – With more than 314,000 students and over 27,000 hired teachers, the new school year of Puerto Rico’s public education system began Monday. That is how Gov. Ricardo Rosselló announced it, assuring that the priority in his education agenda is to achieve students’ well-being.
“This is a part of hard work, of great detail, but it is establishing the stepping stone of our greatest aspiration, which is to have a system of education that provides all children the broadest development room,” the governor said in a press conference at Julián E. Blanco ballet school in San Juan.
Regarding the educational reform the administration expects to implement, the governor said he will meet with the legislative leaders after the start of the second regular session Aug. 21 to discuss the related measures.
“In general, we want to reduce the bureaucratic process … we want to offer greater opportunities and options to our students, and the components will establish the goal of having an education system that is just that, a platform to enable the optimal development of all citizens,” he said.
During his visit to the school, where he was accompanied by Education Secretary Julia Keleher, the governor said there are about 160 teaching positions open, compared with the beginning of last year when more than 500 were needed.
The Education secretary was grateful and surprised by the support the people and the private sector showed toward “Renueva tu Escuela” (Renovate Your School), a program led by first lady Beatriz Rosselló to revamp island schools.
Deputy Chief of Staff Itza García said there have been reports of power and water failures at several schools, but were being addressed. She recently said that some 900 schools were rehabilitated thanks to the Renueva tu Escuela program.
“There is one objective, and all of Puerto Rico needs to know this, whatever action we carry out is best for the children. If the action, if the change, if the strategy does not result in that, we will not do it. If it has a positive net effect on children, we are going to put it on track,” Rosselló said.
Before the beginning of class, Secretary Keleher said there is a “hopeful” scenario for the public education system, while the first day of class will serve to show how “everyone in the chain of command [has worked] and [make] adjustments” where necessary.
“We are transforming the system completely and I’m aware that can provoke resistance and confusion. But what I’m sure of is that, in the end, we will have a functional, fair, objective system in which we will all be working with the same north: students’ well-being,” she said.
Earlier Monday, Senate President Thomas Rivera Schatz visited the José Celso Barbosa School in Puerta de Tierra after it was reconditioned by the upper legislative chamber and others through an investment of more than $100,000.
“The education reform that is going to be designed has to have two protagonists: the teacher and the student. You cannot exclude either. In that reform the contribution the teacher makes and the needs that students have should be the two cardinal aspects to focus on to strengthen it,” the Senate president said during his visit to the school.