Monday, January 9, 2012

More Chamorro Classes at GDOE

Extra classes may cost $11M: DOE works to implement additional Chamorro courses

Meryl Dillman
The Pacific Daily News

Public middle and high school students must take additional Chamorro language and culture classes by school year 2014-2015 under Guam law, raising concerns about cost to the Department of Education and the future of college-bound students.

The law could add millions of dollars to the Guam Department of Education's annual budget to pay for extra teachers, equipment, materials and, possibly, new facilities, DOE officials acknowledged.

High school students face the possibility of having fewer electives to take.

Debra Duenas, who has a son in middle school, is concerned about the possible reduction in electives to make room for the additional Chamorro lessons.

"Electives are needed to round out your education," said Duenas, a librarian at Juan Q. San Miguel Elementary School.

More courses

Currently, public school students are required to take Chamorro class in every year of elementary school, one year in middle school and one year in high school.

Public Law 31-45, which was Bill 95-31 written by Sen. Mana Silva Taijeron, states that seventh-graders should be included by school year 2013-2014, and eighth graders by the following school year. It also states ninth-graders in high school will take mandatory Chamorro course work by school year 2013-2014 and 10th-graders are to be included to the program the next school year.

Additional costs

Ronald Laguana, administrator for Guam DOE's Chamorro Studies Division, said it's been estimated that it could cost $11 million a year to pay for full implementation of the new requirements.

To implement the requirements, the education agency may have to add roughly 50 more teachers, which means more money to pay their salaries and benefits. It also will mean more equipment, supplies and facilities, said Jimmy Teria, a Chamorro language and culture specialist in the Chamorro Studies Division. The money would need to be appropriated to DOE by the Guam Legislature, as part of the department's budget, over the course of the implementation of the new requirements.

Cutting electives

Right now, students need 24 credits to graduate from high school -- six credits per year over four years.
The implementation of the new requirements still is being worked on, so it's unclear how adding an additional year of Chamorro language and culture will be handled, but a committee has been formed to address the implementation of the new requirements, education officials said.

Joseph Sanchez, acting deputy superintendent of Curriculum and Instructional Improvement, said the removal of a credit to accommodate the new Chamorro class requirements is a likely option. It most likely will be an elective that is removed, he said, because he can't imagine anyone wanting to remove a core course.

Sanchez said the community has to be aware of the fact that some things will have to be removed from the curriculum in order to accommodate the new requirements.

Taijeron said it never was the intention to overshadow or downplay the importance of other subject matters, and there are other options.

"Instead of cutting classes, there are other ways to incorporate the language and culture into those classes," she said.

For example, she said, Chamorro dancing could be incorporated into a physical education class or Chamorro music and art could be added to art classes. This could create a dual-credit course.

"There are many ideas, and it really doesn't have to mean cutting back anywhere in the Department of Education," she said. "Of course, it will have an impact on the curriculum, but it doesn't mean other classes will have to suffer."


Taijeron said she introduced the legislation because she grew up in an era on Guam when language and culture weren't a focus in school.

"We have an opportunity to offer this to our children, and there's such a passion for it," she said.

She also said she feels it's her duty as an elected official to do her part to be sure the children of Guam have an opportunity to learn the culture and language.

When a public hearing was held on the bill, there was overwhelming support, Taijeron said. The law was passed unanimously.

Laguana said the law is a positive move because people thrive on language and culture. He also said he thinks the program will be funded.

"I'm sure the Legislature wouldn't pass bills and have it non-funded," he said. "When the time comes, it will be funded."


If the goal is to teach children and the community about the Chamorro language and culture, more work needs to be done than just in the schools, Duenas said.

She said teaching language is more of a grassroots and community issue and it needs to be spoken and taught at home and in the community for it truly to be effective.

Duenas said her son, who has been taking Chamorro classes in school and is half Chamorro, doesn't really speak the language.

Duenas has lived on Guam her entire adult life, but isn't Chamorro and doesn't speak the language, so she can't incorporate it at home and immerse her son in the language and culture, she said.

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