On July 2-7, 2012, leaders from throughout the Northwest regions of Pattiw, Namonweito, and Pafeng converged at Weipat High School on Onoun island to participate in the first Northwest Educators Summit. Their goal: to explore ways to improve the quality of education for students of their region through the Chuuk State Educational Reform Plan. Instead the leaders took the plan further by adopting to take the decentralization goal a step further in building their own reform plan through the creation of a non-governmental organization to be called Fanapi Center.
Among all the teachers and principals were municipal mayors, council presidents, religious leaders, and traditional chiefs (hamwools), Senator Cox Raymond, former Yap Lieutentant Governor Matt Kuor, and concerned parents. The leaders unanimously elected teacher and former principal Steve Johnny to head the Northwest delegation in formulating the Northwest reform efforts with keynote speaker Vid Raatior. Together they formulated a resolution containing the reasons the leaders of the Northwest region strongly agreed to found their own NGO to manage their own educational reform.
The resolution which the participants signed on the last day of the summit is revolutionary and historic. It challenged the competence of the Department of Education’s ability to adequately help the outer islands. It also asked JEMCO and the Office of Insular Affairs (OIA) to release the school-based budget for the Northwest to the Northwest to manage through their new NGO. In addition, the leaders want to incorporate elements of the outer island cultures and religious education into the Northwest Unified Schools.
The last gathering of such high leadership caliber with an educational objective was held back in the late 60’s when the traditional chiefs from Pattiw and Namonweito regions converged on Onoun to discuss ways to start an alternative school for students who did not pass the high school entrance exam. That summit led by the then District Administrator Mr. Ermes Smith founded the Post Elementary School which later became Weipat Junior High School. For many years, Weipat Junior High School consistently graduated the top 10 students in Chuuk State.
Over the years the schools in the Northwest have suffered from low student performance, low morale, and lack of adequate facilities. Consequently, many parents elect to take their more promising students to Guam, Hawaii, and the US mainland. Now the department has turned Weipat Junior High School into 4-year high school with no additional resources.
A team consisting of representatives from the principals, teachers, mayors, councils, traditional chiefs, and women will be meeting with the team of Fr. Arthur Leger, SJ and Vid Raatior to discuss practical ways to move the Northwest Unified Schools reform efforts forward.