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Minister of Education Silveria Jacobs breaks silence on USM situation.

sillyjacobs30062017PHILIPSBURG:--- On October 2nd, the Minister of Education, Culture, Youth and Sport (ECYS), Silveria Jacobs, received a letter from the President of the Board from the University of St. Martin Foundation (USMF), Mrs. Valerie Giterson-Pantophlet. In said letter, the USMF requested the intervention from the Minister of Education, and by extension the Government of St. Maarten, to increase the subsidy to approximately 3 million guilders for the institution to be sustainable due to loss of donors as a result of the hurricane. This does not serve as an official request for subsidy increase based on Article 11 and 13, sub 1, of the Subsidy Ordinance, which states that a subsidy request must be submitted by March 1st of the preceding year for which subsidy is being sought and should include the institution’s programs and budget.
Despite the manner in which the ultimatum was handled by the USMF, Minister Silveria Jacobs, including several stakeholders within the Ministry, scheduled a meeting as soon as possible to bring clarity and seek solutions to the urgent issue at hand in the interest of continuing education at this level as well.
During said meeting, held on Wednesday October 11, 2017 the USMF was able to bring clarity on their situation, and government made it clear that while there is total understanding for the position the University finds itself in, it also finds itself in a precarious financial position due to loss of income for the foreseeable future. The government of St. Maarten is cognizant of the important role the USM plays in the society of St. Maarten and is willing to work together with the USMF to seek a solution that will safeguard the future of the institution as well as not jeopardize the current students and staff.
The University of St. Martin (USM) has had a history of well documented difficulties in the areas of daily operations, organization and financial structures and has, over the years, received assistance from the territory of the Netherlands Antilles, the Government of St. Maarten as well as the Ministry of Education, Culture and Science in the Netherlands to gain accreditation for programs. Since 2014, USMF has been receiving a subsidy amount of Fls. 850,000 from the Government of St. Maarten, of which 10% is withheld until financial reporting obligations are lived up to.
USMF has submitted unaudited financial reports for 2013 and 2014 in February of 2017, citing cost of audited reports as the reason. The Ministry ECYS is currently processing the advice, which still has to be decided in Council of Ministers, in order to be able to award USM the remaining 10% of the subsidy owed for the years 2013 and 2014. Had the semester been able to start as scheduled, USMF would also have received the tuition payments of students who had been awarded Study Financing.
USMF is currently receiving said subsidy under an agreement with the government of St. Maarten made in December 2014 by Ministerial Decree in which the following points, among others, are highlighted:

  1. USM will allocate Fls. 425,000 of the subsidy for the personnel and operational costs associated with USM’s TEP and Fls. 425,000 of the subsidy for other personnel and operational costs incurred during the delivery of the various undergraduate programs
  2. Ensure all degree programs are in line with the needs of the wider community of St. Maarten
  3. Provide copies of the policies
  4. A report detailing the quality of education at the institution during the academic year.
  5. Report to the Minister of Education, Culture, Youth, and Sport in accordance with the guidelines established in Article 16 of the Subsidy Ordinance.
  6. Submit a subsidy request including USM’s program and budget for the subsequent academic years by March 1st of the preceding year for which subsidy is being sought as established in Article 11 and 13, sub 1, of the Subsidy Ordinance.

An increase in subsidy under the current regulations, as requested in the correspondence from the board of the USMF can only be processed when all the necessary documentation is submitted according to the subsidy ordinance mentioned above and highlighted in the Ministerial Decree cited above.
The reality of the situation is that the pre-Irma 2017 Budget of the Ministry of ECYS was already stressed and projected to end in deficit in 2017 based on subsidy obligations among others. Post Irma, both the 2017 and 2018 budgets will have to be amended due to lower income being projected. Realistically speaking, government is being asked to stretch a budget which just like USM’s has taken a major hit in income. The request to increase by over 2 million guilders in this critical time is therefore not executable, even with the best intentions, unless government:
a) decides to cut it from somewhere else, b) proposes it as part of the recovery fund and/or c) finds a creative way to finance the newly accredited programs the University claimed it now has.
All these possible scenarios, however, would require justification via proper documentation which is still pending, as the 2015 and 2016 financial reports have not yet been submitted. This has been discussed with USMF, as well as sent via correspondence.

Government would like to reassure all concerned that it is committed to dialogue with USMF in order to find a way to resolve this challenge in the interest of the students and staff of USM and the continuity of education at tertiary level and has made its intentions very clear to the USMF.

Ministry of ECYS Press Release

Plenary Session of Parliament about the installation and composition of Committees of Parliament.

PHILIPSBURG:--- The House of Parliament will sit in a plenary session on October 24, 2017.
The plenary session is scheduled for Tuesday at 13.00 hrs in the General Assembly Chamber of the House at Wilhelminastraat #1 in Philipsburg.
The agenda points are:

  1. Incoming documents
  2. Approval Decision Lists Public meetings Parliamentary Year 2016-2017 no. 18 and 19 and Parliamentary Year 2017-2018 no. POV 1 and no. 2
  3. Advice regarding the installation and composition of the Permanent and Ad hoc Committees of Parliament
  4. Advice regarding the installation and composition of the Committees of the Latin American Parliament (Parlatino)

Members of the public are invited to the House of Parliament to attend parliamentary deliberations.

The House of Parliament is located across from the Court House in Philipsburg.

The parliamentary session will be carried live on St. Maarten Cable TV Channel 120, via Pearl Radio FM 98.1, the audio via the Internet, and via and also Parliament FB page: Parliament of Sint Maarten.

SHTA regrets unnecessary loss of USM.

usm17032014PHILIPSBURG:--- SHTA is appalled by the fact that the Government has not immediately come to the rescue of the University of St Martin, the only public university on the island, in the wake of destruction and devastation caused by Hurricanes Irma, Jose and Maria.
Rebuilding Sint Maarten after Irma, without giving serious attention to tertiary education, is setting the country up to fail - short term and in the long run.
This is an opportunity to truly invest in schooling and training the population, to become better ambassadors of our island when interacting and serving the tourists that visit each year and spend their money supporting our economy.
In a time in which many will be unemployed, one would have expected that the Government would come up with a plan to have these persons enroll in the USM and NIPA as part of receiving unemployment benefits, and help them through these trying times by upgrading their skills. Most specifically, the indifference shown at the plight of the University is shocking; especially in light of all its recent accomplishments. SHTA has demonstrated its own commitment to both these Institutions thru signed MOUs.
One cannot give credit to all of the talk by this Government, and its predecessors, about getting more Sint Maarteners in managerial positions as it would seem to be just lip service since the University of St Martin cannot get a structural solution to the funding it requires from government. It is the only local institution with accredited degrees in the field of hospitality and business that can train managers. The government seems to only be interested in producing workers, not persons capable of leading the major hotels, restaurants, and businesses on the island.
Again, the SHTA calls on members of Parliament to instruct the Government to work with the Dutch on the reconstruction on this island which starts with the proper training of its population via the USM and the NIPA

SHTA Press Release

Free Bird Feeder Giveaway Thursday in Grand Case.

birdfeeder23102017GRAND CASE:--- Pick up a free bird feeder this Thursday and help the island’s birds recover from the hurricane! The Les Fruits de Mer association will be giving out bird feeders for free at Sky’s the Limit restaurant in Grand Case this Thursday from noon to 3pm.

Just like people, St. Martin’s birds are having a hard time after Irma. Putting out bird feeders like these helps local birds like the Sugar Bird and the two kind of hummingbirds that live on St. Martin, the Antillean Crested Hummingbird and the Green-throated Carib.

“The birds that managed to survive the hurricane still need help, because it takes time for new flowers to bloom. Feeding them also helps them feed new chicks so the bird population can come back sooner,” explains island wildlife expert and Les Fruits de Mer co-founder Mark Yokoyama.

“We’re excited to give away these free bird feeders at Sky’s the Limit because it’s a place for everybody, and helping our local birds is something everybody can do,” says Les Fruits de Mer President Jenn Yerkes. “People still talk about how there were no hummingbirds on the island for five years after Luis. Anybody, young or old, can be part of making sure that doesn’t happen to our birds this time, just by putting out a feeder.” She adds, “Plus, it’s amazing to watch these birds at your feeder–it just puts a smile on your face every day, and we could all use that right now!”

The bird feeders were sent by BirdsCaribbean as part of a special post-hurricane initiative and will be distributed locally by the Les Fruits de Mer association. Everyone is invited to pick up a free feeder this Thursday, October 26th from noon to 3pm at Sky’s the Limit lolo, located on the Boulevard de Grand Case in the heart of Grand Case.

Les Fruits de Mer Press Release

Tzu Chi assists Mormon Church donate building supplies to residents.

tzuchihelpsmormonchurchdonatebuildingsupplies23102017PHILIPSBURG:--- Fifty five families now have materials to rebuilding their Hurricane Irma-damaged roof thanks to the Church of Jesus Christ of Latter Day Saints (Mormon Church), which, with the assistance of the St. Maarten Tzu Chi Foundation, donated a combined total of 3,505 roofing panels (zinc sheets), lumber and plywood to residents and their members in St. Maarten last week.

The total number of building materials available were 1,625 zinc sheets; 880 2x4x8 pieces of lumber, 1,000 2x4x16 pieces of lumber and 665 sheets of plywood, both 1/2"and 5/8". Donated to residents were 1,271 zinc sheets; 466 lumber (2x4x8), 637 lumber (2x4x16) and 645 lengths of plywood. A total of 55 families benefitted from the relief of building supplies. Priority was given to senior citizens and single mothers during the distribution process.

The remaining 354 roofing zinc, 414 lumber (2x4x8), 363 lumber (2x4x16) and 20 plywood were donated to the members of Mormon Church, who are in St. Maarten.

The distribution of the relief building supplies was done over the course of four days last week. Some 2x4 lumber remained and these will be distributed to the elderly, poor and needy by Church of Jesus Christ of Latter Day Saints members.

Tzu Chi Commissioner Sandra Cheung thanked the Mormon Church for their generosity in donation the building materials to residents of the island so that they can help get their lives back together after the devastating natural disaster that hit the island on Wednesday, September 6, 2017. She said the Tzu Chi volunteers were more than happy to assist in the distribution process. She also personally expressed her gratitude to Mormon Church Elder, Sister Fielden, who traveled to St. Maarten from the USA to oversee the distribution of two containers of food (distributed earlier this month) and the four containers of building materials for the community of St. Maarten on behalf of the Mormon Church.

“Tzu Chi deeply appreciates and is grateful to be the back office organizing the requests for aid received from different volunteers. Tzu Chi personally checked and evaluated individual house assessments before the donations were approved,” Cheung said. “Once the recipients were approved, they had to go to the distribution location (Prime Distributors warehouse) to pick up their needed building materials.”

The volunteers from the Mormon Church led by Elder Fielden helped to give out the relief items at the distribution location. The cooperation of the two teams resulted in the successful donation of the items in a record four days.

At the end of the distribution process the Mormon Church thanked the St. Maarten Tzu Chi Foundation for the opportunity to work with them for the distribution of aid to residents. “All of you are caring examples of serving and giving,” the Church said in a message to the foundation. The church also thanked Tzu Chi Foundation for making the distribution of food packages to 609 families in the country earlier this month possible.

Cheung: “We are thankful for the love from the church, the location of Prime Distributors, where the relief supplies were distributed and the efforts of the volunteers from the Church and Tzu Chi, without whose help, this would not have been possible. On behalf of the people of St. Maarten, we are thankful the generosity from the Mormon Church.”

Tzu Chi Foundation Press Release

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