Looking more like a gray fortress with its two story concrete bunker like buildings, Chuuk High School in Weno seems like it could withstand a siege. Many of the teachers, students, and parents believe that is exactly what is happening now. It's not new news. In December of 2005 the Board of Regents of the College of Micronesia agreed in their meeting to accept the offer of Chuuk Governor Wesley Simina to take over the High School campus as the College's permanent facility.
Last week, COM-FSM President Spensin James leaned forward in his desk chair wearing a weary, slightly embattled, expression on his face. When asked about the situation with Chuuk High School his eyes, ever so slightly, rolled upward. "This was not our plan. It was Chuuk State's plan." Chuuk State wasn't after the CHS campus in particular, but simply needed a permanent facility.
The accreditation team from the Western Association of Schools and Colleges had two main concerns about the current operation of the College in Chuuk. They told the administration that they must improve their facilities and that they must find a permanent facility for the Chuuk Campus. If the College did not meet those requirements they would lose the accreditation for the entire college. It was a tall order. He said that Chuuk is the only state that does not provide facilities for the College.
All of the rest of the campuses sit on land provided to them by the respective State's governments. $65,000 of the $2 million the College spends each year for the Chuuk campus's operational expenses goes for rent of the land for the current campus. In a letter on the COM website dated January 24 regarding the status of the COM-FSM Chuuk Campus permanent site, President James said, "It has taken over 30 years and about 10 Directors and Presidents to get to where we are now."
Clark Graham, a teacher at Chuuk High School is concerned. He only has rumors to go on and can't seem to get anyone to respond to his concerns. He wonders why the COM FSM officers and board did not meet with the approximately 50 affected teachers at the school or at least with the Chuuk High School Administration so that everyone effected would know what was going on. President James said that he was just as surprised as the teachers that they didn't know what was happening when COM staff members arrived on the campus to do a facility inspection. "I feel sorry for him and all the citizens [of Chuuk] that did not understand what was going on. I think the Chuuk leadership owes the people an explanation." He said, "I don't think that we should be the ones sharing the information. We were thinking that things had been discussed with the people before they [Chuuk State Government] made the offer."
He said that the Board of Regent's decision to accept the offer is public record and can be seen by contacting the administration at the National Campus of COM. He doesn't know whether or not the Chuuk State government has any documentation on the offer but he said that would be the place to look for it.
Some of the students on the outer islands have already begun to attend satellite high schools that have been opened on their own islands and there are more scheduled to be opened. Graham is still concerned. He said in a letter he wrote to the National Campus to which he never received a response that his 9th grade Social Studies students wonder what will happen with the 9-11th grade CHS students that live on Weno Island and do not have the money to attend a private high school. "Where will they go to high school?"
President James said that he was told by Governor Simina that the Chuuk State administration plans to build a new high school on Weno and that the budget is already earmarked from Compact funds. The process might take a while yet because the plans still need to go through the FSM Department of Transportation, Communication, and Infrastructure, the Project Management Unit that works with GMP, Hawaii.
The college has signed a memorandum of understanding that gives them the right to renew the lease on their current campus on a year by year basis. The current lease expires at the end of this year.
The college's Board of Regents has charged President James to take ownership of the CHS campus by the end of 2008. Governor Simina, by an executive order on November 11, 2006 has established a working group to complete the survey of the campus boundaries and to deal with any legal issues that need to be resolved in order to hand over the title of ownership to the college by the summer of 2007. President James said, "We need the site as soon as possible but we will wait," until all the CHS high school students are satisfactorily placed in a school.
Mr. Graham, asked in his letter, "Does anyone in Pohnpei or individuals associated with COMFSM campuses, the Chuuk State Government of their affiliates stand to benefit financially or in some other way from COM taking over the CHS campus?" President James shook his head, "I can't imagine how."