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Strike may be over, but not teachers' ire

By Molly Morris, St. Thomas Source, 6 November 2000

About the only thing different about the group of teachers huddled outside Adelita Cancryn Junior High School Monday morning was the lack of picket signs. Territorial Court Judge Brenda Hollar may have ended the American Federation of Teachers' three-week-old strike Friday, but these teachers were still discussing strategy, still unhappy and defiant.

After some discussion, the group of about 10 teachers decided to go to school, but on their own terms.

"We're neglected, abused, and we've had enough," said Richard Fater, 28-year Cancryn math teacher. "We're not striking," he said, "We just took it upon ourselves to protest."

"I agree with everything Richard said," said Louis Taylor, local musician and 26-year music teacher, the last 10 at Cancryn, "He said it all."

Both teachers expressed their displeasure with Hollar's ruling sending teachers back to school. "Be sure to say she is up for reappointment," they said. "She should have recused herself."

All Territorial Court judges are appointed by the governor.

One teacher, in remarks reflecting a widespread response among the territory's teachers, said, "I'm leaving, I'm going to quit." Neema Francis, an English teacher at Cancryn, received her degree on the U.S. mainland and came back home to teach. But she said she can't afford to live here.

Ellen Lewis, eight-year special education teacher, and Celita Smith, eight-year math teacher, both said they were going into the school, however reluctantly. Leba Ola-Niyi, 20-year art teacher, said "Go, sign in and do nothing." Asked whether he would instruct his students, Ola-Niyi said, "Yes, I will teach them about what has been going on with the government and the teachers."

Other teachers echoed his comment. "We will teach them about the strike," Taylor said, "about the injustice and disrespect the government has shown us."

Three seventh-graders had a different take on the morning. "I'm happy to be going back to school," said Kishanna Lloyd, "There's nothing to do at home and I miss my friends."

Darlene Brooks and Julie Swanston agreed, with some reservations. "I'm kind of happy to go back," said Swanston, "but we don't know what's going to happen." All three agreed they didn't want their holidays and Christmas and summer vacations tampered with.

Fater, Taylor and Ola-Niyi agreed to meet at noon and discuss further strategy.