LOGAN â€“ Sinton Soalablai, minister of education; Raynold Mechol, chief division of school management; and Debbie Tkel-Sbal, director of the bureau of curriculum and instruction, from the Republic of Palau, visited the Hocking Valley recently to learn about the education process, curriculum and operation of the school systems in the area.
The education leaders spent 10 days in Ohio examining many of the effective educational practices occurring in elementary schools, high schools, career centers and community colleges.
Palau is a small, but very progressive island in the South Pacific that, at one time after World War II, was an United States protectorate.
According to Harry Drier, president of the Faith Based Community Solutions, due to the isolation that is caused by living in an island nation, it presents educational challenges for the youth.
â€œTheir youth have little sense of the changing nature of work and its increasing demand for skills. Also, there is little motivation to plan for post-high school education, not knowing how to navigate the barriers of socialization, financial aid and the fear of leaving their country for long periods of time.
â€œThe Honorable Sinton Soalablai and his directors of administration and curriculum and instruction are seeking new effective ways in which schools with similar circumstances motivate and provide higher access to higher learning for their children,â€ he wrote.
The study group visited numerous schools including Central Elementary, Logan-Hocking Middle School, Logan High School and Tri-County Career Center to observe classes and methods of teaching and learning, as well as engaging in professional discussions with teachers and students in the Hocking Valley areas.
As the trio of educators toured several buildings within the Logan-Hocking School District, they were impressed with the school buildings but more importantly, they praised the positive atmosphere and educational environment that enveloped the students, staff and administrators.
â€œThe staff at every school that we visited were really welcoming. They appeared really happy to see us and made us feel very comfortable. In addition, it was apparent that the teachers and staff members kept the students engaged in the educational process,â€ the education minister said.
The team was glad to see that the guidance office at LHS was open and welcoming to the students. â€œWe believe that counseling is crucial to the student body and we are interested in expanding our counseling department and making it more visible so that they can effectively guide students in the right direction,â€ Soalabial said.
Mechol said they liked the fact that local students are housed in one building making it more accessible for students. â€œOur campus is comprised of many separate buildings and the counseling department seems very isolated so we would like to change that aspect at our high school,â€ he said.
Tkel-Sbal said that she was equally impressed with the talented and gifted program that is implemented in the school district, as well as the variety of programs offered including science, technology, engineering and math (STEM) program, as well as the Young Entrepreneurs Academy! (YEA), and Project Lead the Way program.
â€œWe also witnessed a high level of teachers and staff and it is apparent that the teachers and staff members care for the students. In addition, the students are not strangers to the school principals and administrators either, we believe that is key to the educational experience as well,â€ she said.
The group was also very impressed with Tri-County Career Center. â€œWe really liked the vocational school, the programs offered there were amazing. In our country, most of the services such as electrical and plumbing jobs must be contracted with contractors from the mainland. We need vocational education of this type, so that youth can learn trades and skills that they can put to use in our homelands,â€ Mechol added.
The Palau officials noted that the islands do offer head start programs and private preschools but not kindergarten. Students attend first through 12th grades. â€œWe deal with the same issues that you deal with here in the U.S. We want to offer the highest quality of education but must survive on limited resources,â€ Soalablai said.
The officials said that technology is growing and they need to keep up with that but their internet service is very slow. â€œBut we work with what we have and we are still very focused on maintaining our culture and traditions that are native to our country,â€ Tkel-Sbal said.
The study group also examined the out-of-school alternative placement, in-school suspension and work-study programs, as well as learning about utilizing police officers at the middle and high school buildings.
During their stay in Hocking County, the education officials stayed at Bear Run Inn Cabins and Cottages and shared meals with local families. They also took the time to visit many of the local historical sites during their brief stay in Hocking County.
â€œWe really enjoyed our accommodations provided by Phil and Tonya Myers and we sincerely appreciated Jeff and Kathy Crisler for serving as our hosts during our visit too. The Myers and the Crislers were wonderful hosts and since Kathy is a retired teacher from the Logan-Hocking School District, she was the perfect guide to lead us on our way as we toured the various school buildings.
â€œThis trip proved to be wonderful exchange of experiences and was great learning experience for our team. We hope that once we get back home we can implement some of the practices and aspects of the curriculum into our public school district,â€ Soalablai concluded.
After departing from Logan, the trio of educators visited Columbus, New Albany and Dayton, Ohio.