Kosrae — Penina Mackwelung, president of the Kosrae Teachers
Association, shrugs off the notion that her appointment by the union of
teachers on the island was politically motivated, as some have
In 1998, her husband lost his bid for a second term as
governor to Rensley Sigrah, himself now riding into a second term on the
strengths of what some consider significant accomplishments.
amended Compact that is considerably delayed, the ride may get bumpy.
Reluctant as she was to accept the post, Mackwelung said the teachers
felt that only she could help them succeed in getting their voices heard
at the bargaining table with the governor.
In an interview between
classes at the high school, Mackwelung stated that the contracts may not
be a bad idea, and as someone with a higher degree, might prove
Mackwelung, however, said her primary concern as president
is to look out for what is best for the group.
She said teachers are
unanimous in the opinion that the one-year contracts as currently written,
“They are not even considering the contracts. There
is still so much behind this that we have to understand. Some say they can
consider it later, but we believe there are many policies, decisions, and
directives that have been made by the whims of our leaders and have flaws
that are contrary to our laws,” she said.
She discussed the intent of
the contracts: Are they to erode workers rights or to improve the
education system? She said that negotiations should be done with good
intent, that benefits should be defined clearly, and that the contracts be
extended to at least two-year periods.
Grounds for dismissal should
also be stated clearly within the contracts, said Mackwelung.
better than to be treated as if we are ignorant or uneducated. What we
have been presented with is vague and ambiguous. I want something to be
very clear in black and white for our teachers,” she said.
revealed a legal petition that addresses teacher concerns and quotes
heavily from the Public Service System. The final portion of the petition
tackles the issue of a proposed new teacher classification system, with a
test to be administered to classify teachers accordingly. The petition
calls this proposal “unlawful and unnecessary.”
said, will not take the test designed to reclassify them under the
provisions of the new contracts.
Mackwelung said teachers had suggested
going on strike. For Mackwelung, however, teachers must see eye to eye
with Department of Education administrators and other government leaders
in ensuring the best possible environment for students.
“I don’t want
to hurt the students. I don’t feel we should use this as leverage against
them. If it is a management problem, then we handle it with the
management,” she said.