CNMI Legislature on path to solve BOE impasse

Rep. Manny Castro’s legislation that will solve the current impasse within the Board of Education passed the House unanimously, and awaits consideration in the Senate. House Bill 23-020 will reduce the quorum requirement from four out of five voting members, to three out of five voting members.

“Everywhere else, quorum is a simple majority,” the congressman said. “We even made it so that the quorum has to consist of members from at least two senatorial districts.” This requirement will prevent Saipan from dominating public education decisions against Rota and Tinian.

The impasse has been ongoing since January, when two board members – Andrew Orsini of Saipan and Herman Atalig of Rota – walked out of the board’s organizational meeting and have yet to show up. Their absence together prevents the board from having the four voting members needed to establish a quorum and conduct business.

“When the board is not functioning, it’s our fiduciary duty to step in,” Mr. Castro said. “This is not short term, this is long term; to prevent this problem from happening again.”

Mr. Castro, his legislation’s co-sponsor Rep. John Paul Sablan, and the 17 other members who voted for the bill are concerned the Public School System’s governance problems will jeopardize school accreditation, federal grants, and otherwise the operations of the school system.

Mr. Castro said he does not have verifiable information as to why Mr. Orsini and Mr. Atalig walked out of the first meeting, but unofficial channels have informed him the impasse is about who will be elected chair of the board.

The congressman emphasized the legislature was reluctant to intervene in the matter until an onslaught of concerns from constituents prompted the legislation.

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