Perception of publi...
 
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Perception of public school education in STX

 
robert.hamic
(@robert.hamic)
Advanced Member

Hello,

My wife and I are planning to relocate to St. Croix from Austin, TX within the next three years. We plan to teach elementary school. I understand that there is a shortage of teachers on the island and I don't think it will be hard to obtain employment. I am curious if most of the families utilize public education? Do people believe that public education is good or improving on the island? Are there any public school teachers on this forum? Thanks.

Robb Hamic

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Topic starter Posted : October 27, 2014 10:07 pm
speee1dy
(@speee1dy)
Expert

most families do use public education.

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Posted : October 27, 2014 10:47 pm
ms411
(@ms411)
Expert

Nothing is easy here, especially when dealing with the government. Are you reading any of the online local "newspapers"? The Department of Education started the school year without funding for textbooks.

And that's just one issue...

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Posted : October 27, 2014 11:42 pm
klpmtm
(@klpmtm)
Advanced Member

I am planning a move there within the next year with my husband and 2 girls. Make sure you go to the USVI Dept. Of Ed website and see if you meet all of their requirements to teach there. And if you don't, three years is plenty of time to get any work you need done. I have everything needed except for the Praxis exam, which I am studying for and plan on taking Nov/Dec. I also plan on putting our children in the public schools as well. The private schools are outrageously expensive there.

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Posted : October 28, 2014 4:58 am
sunshinefun
(@sunshinefun)
Trusted Member

Public school teachers in the VI are among the lowest paid in the US, while the cost of living is likely the highest in the US. That's why they have such a hard time recruiting. Although living here is great, it doesn't come cheap.

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Posted : October 28, 2014 11:25 am
robert.hamic
(@robert.hamic)
Advanced Member

Thank you for all of the response. I see some of the problems with the system seem to run deep. The pay sucks but I don't guess that any of us get into education for the huge sums of money to be earned. At least we won't have to go on vacation to spend the few months off from work.

I was really curious about the popular opinion about the school system in general. It is hard to get a real consensus from the news without being there.

I am very excited to get the the island.

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Topic starter Posted : October 28, 2014 4:39 pm
klpmtm
(@klpmtm)
Advanced Member

If it makes you feel any better I know that North Carolina schools play less than the USVI.

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Posted : October 28, 2014 4:55 pm
speee1dy
(@speee1dy)
Expert

north carolina also has a much lower cost of living than the vi. i mean we still pay 4.27 for a gallon of gas.

if you become serious enough, please read all of the back posts to get an idea of what daily living is like. you make more in austin and spend less in austin. most people suggest a visit before moving here though not necessary.

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Posted : October 28, 2014 6:39 pm
Afriend
(@afriend)
Trusted Member

Robert said - "The pay sucks but I don't guess that any of us get into education for the huge sums of money to be earned. At least we won't have to go on vacation to spend the few months off from work."

I don't mean to sound condescending but comments like these demonstrate a bit of naiveté. Case in point: People on island tell the person making the inquiry that the pay for teachers is one of the lowest in the US but the cost of living in the USVI's is high. Yet OP tries to justify his decision to relocate by basically saying "yeah, but as a teacher I expect to have limited earnings". What OP doesn't really want to face is how that reduction in income will affect his family's lifestyle in an area with a much higher cost of living that he experiences where he now lives.

As for the second part of the statement about "not having to go on vacation" OP has't taken into consideration that living/working on a small island is far different than visiting on vacation. Island life is very much like living in a small town without the ability to easily leave that small town. When vacation time rolls around OP and his family may be itching to "get off the rock" and back to civilization even if it is only for a week or two.

So you see, living on an island may seem like paradise but it's not heaven.

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Posted : October 28, 2014 7:11 pm
TommySTX
(@TommySTX)
Advanced Member

Afriend,

"I don't mean to sound condescending but"

That literally mean you are going to be condescending to someone. Why is that even necessary? Make your points in "a friend"ly way and move on.

Robert.Hamic,

Prepare for many, many people on this board to do everything they can to tear down your ideas and discourage you(or anyone for that matter) from moving to the islands. Do your research and make a visit to the islands. Make some friends while you're here and please do not rely solely on this message board for your information. There are too many conversations on here that sink into the abyss.

Good luck and I hope if this is your dream that you are able to live it.

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Posted : October 28, 2014 7:58 pm
sunshinefun
(@sunshinefun)
Trusted Member

Good advise TommySTX...I was just trying to be honest in my assessment but I do love living here.

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Posted : October 28, 2014 8:22 pm
C_Ray6
(@C_Ray6)
Advanced Member

I want to commend you and your family for actually sacrificing while at the same and trying to be a part of the solution to any problems with the school system whether real or perceived. If you find your life is improved while doing so then wonderful and if not then you chalk it up (pardon the pun) as another life learning experience. If more "good people" whatever that means relocated to the VI perhaps they will so out number the "bad people" that is often mentioned on this board that we encourage more people to better themselves despite any disadvantages one starts off with in life. Lead by example. See you when I get there!

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Posted : October 28, 2014 11:00 pm
meowruff
(@meowruff)
Advanced Member

My husband and I are both teachers in the public school system.

Fact: The pay is pathetic. Because the schools are lacking in so many ways, you will find yourself spending more than you could imagine on just trying to make teaching feasible...think in the thousands (not hundreds) of dollars. We haven't had a copy machine for ages. I purchase pencils, books, materials, etc. for my students. The computers that are issued are embarrassing, so be sure to make sure you are ready to invest in, or already have, a good computer, printer, etc.

Fact: The cost of living here is higher. This is a no-brainer. The cost of living on an island is always going to be higher, as our materials/goods have to be shipped in.

Fact: It is expensive to leave the island to visit family. Although many people think we are on vacation 24/7, it is very expensive to return to the mainland for family emergencies and just to visit loved ones. Because we live in such a beautiful place, many people love to visit and stay with us, but it's not vacation.

Fact: We need excellent teachers here! As St Croix has been fighting to stay alive, we have lost so many wonderful, caring teachers to the mainland. They could no longer justify staying here for such low pay, when there are opportunities in the states that pay at a much higher (and less stressful) rate. My husband and I have been asked over and over again, "Why are you still here? We know that you could go back to the states and make a lot more money."

Fact: We need excellent teachers here! If you are motivated and really want to make a difference in the lives of our future, sign up now!

I am not a recruiter...just a teacher that is very passionate about our youth. I love teaching! Many of you have seen my posts over the years, and my goal remains the same - make a difference in the lives of our young people. I know that I can't change all of them...but I can start with one at a time!

Good luck in your endeavors!

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Posted : October 29, 2014 12:26 am
klpmtm
(@klpmtm)
Advanced Member

Robert, ignore all the negative nellies, to a point. I am moving out there with my family as soon as next year (as soon as I land a teaching job in the public schools). Is what they say true? Yes, to a point. The cost of living is expensive, the pay is lower, there is crime, etc.... Listen to what it is like in the islands. But I would ignore all the people who insult you and your comments. In my opinion they are angry about something and have nothing better to do than to stomp on someones dream. I personally have been in contact with some wonderful people here on the boards and because of them I have learned to take everything with a grain, I take that back, a pound of salt. LOL!

The funny thing is how people here like to tell you how laid back it is there and if you want to make it there you need to have "No worries." BUt then those people are the first to rip you (And your dreams) to shreds under the guise of "I'm just telling them like it is!" MAke your own decisions and find people on here you and PM And get the scoop of what it's like without the drama and insults.

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Posted : October 29, 2014 4:55 am
stjohnjulie
(@stjohnjulie)
Trusted Member

In my experience, the view of the public schools varies depending on who you are asking. The transplant population that I know on St. John tend to have a negative opinion of the public schools, even the long time transplants. The native population has a less negative view of the public schools until their kids reach high school and have to make the trip to St. Thomas every day to go to school, then things tend to get a little more mixed. The teachers tend to make the biggest difference in overall perception. Good teacher, good perception. Bad teacher, negative perception. And I think that pretty much holds true whether public, private, in the VI or anywhere in the mainland. We need good, dedicated, educated teachers and would welcome anyone who wants to come here and make a difference for our youth and our public education.

Living here IS expensive. And teaching does not pay well. But this is also a very different lifestyle and as long as you can learn to do without you can be happy here. When I first moved here not having some of the convinces I had in the states were somewhat of a challenge to adapt to. Over time, you really do learn that you just don't need all of that 'stuff' that you were accustomed to having. And for the most part, I am really glad that I live a simpler life without all the 'stuff'. And I like that my children are being raised in this simpler life that I now live.

Since you don't plan on moving for awhile, I suggest you frequent this board, and others, to get a general feel for some of the topics that we discuss most. It won't give you the whole picture, but it can help give you an idea of what life is like here. And of course, go back and read some of the older posts too.

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Posted : October 29, 2014 8:12 am
MissJustice
(@MissJustice)
Trusted Member

We would love to have you here. The cost of living is high, but as a teacher you can chose your school in the best neighborhood. There is a generous retirement lack with defined benefits. We are trying to improve the VI educational system and you get more out of changing a system that needs you than working somewhere perfect. Please come.

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Posted : October 29, 2014 10:56 am
ritarivas
(@ritarivas)
Active Member

Very well said. In most smaller towns that I lived, teachers were well-regarded which is a great intrinsic benefit.

We would love to have you here. The cost of living is high, but as a teacher you can chose your school in the best neighborhood. There is a generous retirement lack with defined benefits. We are trying to improve the VI educational system and you get more out of changing a system that needs you than working somewhere perfect. Please come.

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Posted : October 29, 2014 1:58 pm
FLLisa
(@fllisa)
Advanced Member

Hello robert.hamic and everyone else -

As another US teacher with plans to make the move, my husband and I will be there the week of 11/23 for our third PMV. This time, I would love to volunteer at a school for one of those days to start to get a feel for the differences. I've looked up the volunteer application process and it seems rather lengthy, and geared more towards someone who would come to a school on a regular basis. Meowruff, thanks for your previous advice to me, and I know you would know if there is a shorter version of the process to come to a school for a day. Do you think my current US credentials would allow me to help out somewhere for a day? Need any extra hands at Ricardo Richards?

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Posted : October 29, 2014 2:18 pm
robert.hamic
(@robert.hamic)
Advanced Member

Thank you all so much for the feedback and thoughts. I feel that the dialogue is really helpful for me and I was looking to get a feel for people's perceptions. I love the fact that there is a sentiment that welcomes newcomers who aren't just wanting to buy a vacation house and live a lavish life. It is nice to see that people who have something to offer are encouraged to come. I assumed that teachers in the USVI have some of the same problems as mainland teachers in that budgets are tight, supplies are limited and opportunities are harder to come by in school systems that have incidents of poverty. What a grand opportunity for us!

I am lucky because I am retired from the Army and have enough income to support our family without teaching. I guess getting blown up has its advantages. The fact is, we decided to move there a year ago. It has been my dream for as long as I can remember. We are very fortunate to own a big boat that we will be cruising down from Houston. Our plan is to take a year or so to get there and move our things after settling in. I can't wait to use STX as a jumping off point for travels. We look forward to seeing the rest of the Caribbean, South America and Central America.

I chose to enter the teaching field after I read the article about how the USVI had a shortage of qualified teachers and 57 vacancies after over 100 resigned with little notice. That story really spoke to me. I am hoping to complete most of my work for a master's degree before we arrive.

I know people often talk about how little incentive that there is for teachers and how the pay is low but I think that is not exactly on track. There is an amazing amount of grants and loan forgiveness, etc. to make the profession attractive to anyone, especially Veterans. If a person averaged out the amounts of the grant benefits over a ten year period it would add $8500 per year to a salary. Some people might not qualify for all that I listed but others may qualify for more.

-$16000 in Teach Grants
-$22000 in Pell Grants
-$17500 in loan forgiveness
-$19500 in loan cancellation
-$10000 bonus for Veterans Troops to Teachers
-Various other private grants and state awards

I am not really concerned about the cost of living as much as some. I think it is all relative. Gas may be over $4 per gallon but I won't have to commute 40-60 minutes per day or drive 20 miles to run an errand. I guess people in California pay about the same per gallon. I was really excited about the cost of real estate. I found that I can get a mortgage on my own piece of heaven for about half of what I pay in Austin.

We are looking forward to living much simpler lives. We have two younger kids and a boy who will go to college in a couple years. He is considering a Marine Biology degree at the USVI University. I think that sounds great for him.

Thanks again for all of your input.

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Topic starter Posted : October 29, 2014 2:51 pm
ms411
(@ms411)
Expert

What a great post, Robert.hamric, and thanks for the info on grants for teachers.

You might be surprised at the many opportunities for kids in public schools with limited resources. Carnival participation is just one activity that keeps the kids busy and instills discipline and dedication. It also bonds generations which is something I think many stateside families are losing.

Hopefully whoever is elected governor this year will make it easier to hire teachers. One candidate has mentioned doing that, but I haven't heard any others address the issue.

The public schools here produce many successful professionals thanks to dedicated teachers and parents. There just aren't enough of them.

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Posted : October 29, 2014 4:39 pm
speee1dy
(@speee1dy)
Expert

YOU COULD END UP DRIVING THAT DISTANCE even though it is a small island, depending on where you live. you are luckier than most teachers in that you have another source of income and dont have to rely on just your teaching salary-so money wise you should do just fine. i know people that drive about 40-45 minutes each way to and from work. keep that in mind when you look at a job and where to live

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Posted : October 29, 2014 5:54 pm
meowruff
(@meowruff)
Advanced Member

I don't want to dampen your spirit regarding grants, but the Virgin Islands are ineligible for the majority of grant opportunities. There are some wonderful local organizations that offer funding, assistance and financial awards.

When we moved here, we believed (and were told) that my husband's students loans would be eligible for some loan forgiveness. After fulfilling all requirements, applying and re-applying, he is still being denied - because the US Virgin Islands are ineligible.

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Posted : October 29, 2014 10:24 pm
klpmtm
(@klpmtm)
Advanced Member

Wow meow that sucks! You would think he's be considered and have the loans forgiven.

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Posted : October 29, 2014 11:34 pm
MissJustice
(@MissJustice)
Trusted Member

There are local education grants

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Posted : October 31, 2014 10:54 am
Alana33
(@alana33)
Expert

Maybe that could be something the new delegate to congress could addresses, meowruff? Have you tried contacting Donna Christiansen in the past?

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Posted : October 31, 2014 11:02 am
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