Ladera International School of Saipan (LISS) Update

October 4, 2009


On August 20, 2009 I published a post about the Ladera International School of Saipan (LISS),"Governor intervention in human trafficking case?" The post outlined a lawsuit against the school that alleges forced labor, human trafficking, fraud, and FLSA violations including unpaid minimum wage and overtime compensation. Huk Suk (Arnold) Kim is suing the school's owners, Yong Nam Park President and CEO and Sung Yun Anne Kim (Anne), Vice-President.

The complaint filed in federal court discloses questionable practices and illegalities at the school that is endorsed by Governor Fitial and convicted felon, former Lt. Governor Timothy Villagomez. Their photos and endorsement remain on the LISS web-site even after the former Lt. Governor Villagomez has been imprisoned in a high-security federal prison in Tucson, Arizona. Here is the endorsement from the LISS web-site:
























An amended complaint was filed September 19, 2009. The defendants filed a response to the complaint through their attorney, Stephen Nutting on Friday, October 2, 2009 denying the allegations.

Since I put up the initial post in August there have been many interesting comments from former LISS employees that make serious allegations against the school. Additionally, there is a new web-site that focuses on exposing problems with LISS entitled, Edu-Tourism: Business or Criminals? The posts addresses issues concerning credentials of the teachers, the routine practice of hiring tourists to work, teachers regularly being paid late' or having their paychecks bounce, and more.

The principal of LISS, Wayne Pangelinan, previously worked for the Marianas Visitor's Bureau. According to the web-site Edu-Tourism, Mr. Pangelinan recently resigned as a board member from the MVA because of a new regulation by the governor's office requiring board appointees to have police clearances. The web-site quotes a Marianas Variety article comment that states:
"Wayne Pangelinan is no longer an MVA board member. He recently resigned, most likely due to a prior felony theft conviction in Superior Court back in 2002. Thank God the Governor is calling for all appointees and board members to submit their police clearances. We do not need criminals making decisions on behalf of the people. How many others in previous administrations had criminal records, but the Senate turned a blind eye?"
I could find no factual basis or documentation verifying the comment that Mr. Pangelinan was ever arrested. However, the Edu-Tourism site adds this:
According to a recently terminated instructor for the school, Pangelinan admitted the felony. If to that teacher, then most likely to the Parks as well. If they did know and are hiring a convicted felon as their director, then we claim that is gross negligence on the part of Park and Kim.
(UPDATE: I did find information of an arrest from this Saipan Tribune article.)

Pangelinin is also referred to as "director" and "representative " in some Saipan Tribune articles and on another LISS web-site called The Tiger's Den.

A June 2009 Saipan Tribune article lists the board of directors of LISS as: Anna Leah Castillon, Rosemishel Pacheco, Mustafa Shakir, and Susan Satur.

According to one recent comment on my post, the Parks have been sued previously. A commenter from Korea wrote:
Wife of the Park, Anne Kim is being sued in Korea (Case Number Seongnam Court Go-Dan, 378) for fraud and in fact, I had already won my case for my unpaid wages while I was working for Anne Kim (I-SCHOOL Corp. aka, LISS Korea Office).
A 2007 Saipan Tribune article mentions the I-School Corp. in Korea. Another former teacher has said that the I- School is now closed due to nonpayment of teachers.

Any schools' primary purpose should be to provide quality education to the students. All schools, public and private, need regulations, certified staff and regular inspections.

Here is what one former teacher wrote as a comment on my previous post:
The school is not a healthy educational environment. In one and half years of the first school year, they had four principals. Now, they have the fifth who has a high school diploma. Many teachers who have worked there had non-educational majors, and many of them did not even have a college degree. I know from reliable sources that once 18 year old was a classroom teacher and 14 year old local kid was making money by tutoring at night.

The school owners did not want to spend money to buy teaching materials. At least, classroom teachers had textbooks, but did not have enough teacher’s guides or workbooks. The kids had to share textbooks. We did not have teaching aids for Mathematics and History and so on. There were absolutely no Science materials, and teachers who wanted to give hands on experience to students had to bring materials from home.

They brought rich Korean kids to fill up the classes, especially in Korea’s long vacation periods. It was hard to teach both English native and ESL students at the same time, especially when ESL students were the majority in the class and didn’t understand much English. This caused serious delay in the subject study for regular students. The owners did not show any consideration to the quality of education, but they simply wanted to earn money from wealthy Korean students.

Teachers received paychecks once in a month, and pay was often delayed with silly excuses like sending money from Korea takes time and so on. Last year, there was a time when the checks of every teacher bounced.

The school did not care about teachers. There was no health insurance. It had to be worked out among the teachers, but there were not enough percent of teachers who wanted to pay to be able to get it.

The present director/principal talked about, “Education Business.” In LISS, “education” equals “business.”

Last year, the teachers were supposed to work for WASC accreditation, but they could not be accredited. Anyway, LISS put on the Korean website that they were accredited by WASC. This advertisement helps innocent Korean parents to determine to send their kids to LISS, I guess.

To avoid being called, “a Korean School”, LISS wanted to increase the number of local students. They offered a scholarship that local kids did not have to pay tuition. Also, they had a “one for two” tuition program that allowed local parents who had two kids just to pay for one kid’s tuition. The school’s money comes from the Koreans. Free private education sounds good, but the education of the local kids is sacrificed to have short-term Korean students bring in money.

One of the writers in Marianas Variety has the same family name as LISS’ director/principal. Family ties are strong in this island, and you can guess that even newspaper articles are not written fairly. The article in that paper was written mostly by the president of the school anyway.
Yet another teacher posted a comment on my post that said this:
As another former educator of LISS I can testify to the above comments. Sadly, from what I hear, nothing much has changed at the school. I'm told that teachers fear the once a month payroll distribution because there always seems to be an issue as to why checks can't be distributed on time. I remember that we were told that the Korean kids were our bread and butter and we were to do whatever it took to make them happy so the rich parents would keep sending them to the school. I remember many of the Korean kids were miserable because they have to attend classes, after school programs and night tutoring until almost 10 pm every night. They were so tired they could hardly even keep their eyes open during the day in class! I know this is still a practice. The owners used the excuse that this is standard practice in Korea! It was terrible for the kids because they were too tired to even absorb any of the lesson during the day! Many of them just slept all day and we had to keep waking them up! Then they would almost cry when we gave them required homework because they said with all the after school requirements they had there was no time to do homework. If we did not give homework the teachers would get in trouble. I remember many of the kids hating the school but their parents were told that they were having a great time and loved it. I also remember hearing about the 18 year old high school kid hired as a classroom teacher. I was happy to leave that place and feel for the teachers that are now working there.
Edu-tourism
The LISS site is strongly supported not just by the governor's office, but by the Marianas Visitor's Authority. It posts a letter of support from MVA Managing Director Perry John Tenorio and MVA Chairman Jerry Tan. The edu-tourism idea that the governor backed seems to be seeded in the LISS School.

A June 2007 Saipan Tribune article reported:
LISS president Yong Nam Park touted the school's achievements the past year. Park said the school has been active in partnering with local government agencies such as the Marianas Visitors Authority and in promoting “Edu-tourism.”
A November 2008 Saipan Tribune article discusses how LISS is recruiting students for a "winter camp":
Being at the forefront of developing the education-tourism element for the CNMI, LISS has been receiving tremendous support from the government.

“Communications on this industry with LISS continues as the current administration supports the movement of education-tourism,” said Commerce Secretary Michael Ada.

LISS is expected to lure in approximately 100 students during the months from December to January.
It was reported that over 150 foreign students attended the LISS summer camp this past summer. The school also has a Korean website to recruit students.

29 comments:

Anonymous said...

Is the principle really a convicted felon? Where is the proof?

Wendy said...

These allegations were taken from comments. The post says, "I could find no factual basis or documentation verifying the comment that Mr. Pangelinan was ever arrested." However, in two different places this allegation was brought up. This is a school. What agency or agencies oversee private schools in the CNMI? Are there clearances required for personnel that work on school campuses?

Anonymous said...
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the teacher said...

The AB case cited above is old news and completely irrelevant to this matter.

Edu-tourism could be a wonderful business in the CNMI as we have some advantages recruiting from the E. Asian mainland, but we don't want shady crooks and criminals interspersing with highly qualified educators. The proprietary school business can be a solid asset to our community or not. The idea of political appointees sitting on our board of regents would be the first area of concern and the idea that the Guv needs to bless the operation is ridicules.

These scams seem to be originating in Korea and perhaps the immigration climate is helping to fuel this business, but either way, none of these characters will qualify to stay under US immigration.

Anonymous said...

The immigration climate isn't fueling anything. Want to see edu corruption? Look at NMC and PSS. Start there. Alcoholic teachers, drug users and yes convicted felons. Drunk NMC instructors. Board Of Regents nepotism is at an all time high. BTW the AB news is not old, it's just ignored and covered up by libs.

Wendy said...

To anonymous 2:25

The teacher is right. Your comment was removed. You already posted it on another unrelated post. Ditto for commenter who can't spell and offers nothing but unjustified attacks.

Teacher:
Thanks for the comment.

Wendy said...

Anonymous 5:15

What are you doing to change the system? To ensure that children are protected? To make sure that all public and private school personnel must pass a police clearance and background check? You claim teachers are drug users and drunk. Are you just talking about it or contacting those who can do something to correct the situation?

And yes, the immigration climate absolutely has to do with some private schools on Saipan having serious problems. This is not an isolated case.

There needs to be strict policies and oversight for all schools -public and private. Do something instead of tossing out your constant ultra lib labels to people trying to enact change and improvement.

Any foreign investor or foreign employer who has cheated workers, been a human trafficker or violated other labor or criminal laws should not be given status under federal law.

Anonymous said...

"Any foreign investor or foreign employer who has cheated workers, been a human trafficker or violated other labor or criminal laws should not be given status under federal law."

You've just named almost every single employer in CNMI and most of the world for that matter. Filipino, Chinese, Korean business owners are notorious for violating workers' rights. Do you think that a Filipino or Chinese business owner is more fair to their workers because they are Filipino or Chinese? They are some of the worst offenders! How many Filipino business owners do you know that pay double the minimum wage? I know zero. In fact there are dozens that pay less! Abuse is rampant. Some of them are 'long term' business people too. Maybe you're suggesting that it's really ok if a Chinese or Filipino mistreat or are unfair to their employees?

Wendy said...

Anonymous 11:02

"You've just named almost every single employer in CNMI and most of the world for that matter." Please, let's deal with reality and facts.

I do not care what ethnic group or nationality employers are, if they are labor abusers then they should not be given foreign investor status and have no place on U.S. soil abusing workers.

What does this mean: "How many Filipino business owners do you know that pay double the minimum wage? " What is "double the minimum wage?" Do you mean overtime wages? Do you have names? Did you turn in the alleged abusers to authorities? Any facts?

I am suggesting nothing. I made absolutely no references to any nationality. Why don't you reread what I wrote. I said, "ANY foreign investor..."

Anonymous said...

There are many businesses owned by Filipinos, Chinese, Bangladeshis etc. that owe their employees money, pay little or nothing. In fact, one is a Marine Sports company that pays as little as $600 per month for a dive master. Of course they're working illegally anyway but wtf right? No over time, nada. Happens all the time to dozens of the operations. Another one uses illegal Filipino boat captains who get paid a paltry $30 per day. Better than the PI though. It is rampant and covered up mostly by the workers. Just look at the PI for example. Rampant abuse, slavery, you name it. I'll bet you Wendy that there are more abuses occurring with Foreign owned business than local. When I say foreign you can include the Filipino ones as well. Why do I emphasize that? Because it's going to surprise you later when you find out some of these marchers are guilty of it themselves.

Wendy said...

Anonymous 11:51 you are turning these violators in or do you just toss allegations around? I don't care WHO the employers are, if they are violating the law they need to be held responsible and the workers that they are abusing need to be paid the correct wages.

Anonymous said...

You know some of the violators Wendy.

Filipinos as well as Chinese are less likely to turn in their own, it's just how it is. They have a catch 22. Turn in the the owner and maybe get deported yourself because you are overstaying. No money in that. The current scam among these operators is to pay let's say $400 per month with "housing". It really means barracks. They have basically transplanted shanty towns from Metro Manila to Chalan Kanoa. This is the reality.

Wendy said...

anonymous 12:48.

The reality is that the dysfunctional system you describe should end in 53 days and hopefully, a better system will replace the corrupt system.

Anonymous said...
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Anonymous said...
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Anonymous said...

Wendy,

The US takeover is not about helping the Filipinos. You do realize that don't you?

Anonymous said...

I hope that the OAG is reading this and is investigating.

Anonymous said...

Does a blog constitute probable cause or even reasonable suspicion?

Are anonymous commenters reliable?

Anonymous said...

You'll be surprised a lot of chamorros in Saipan and in Guam have Filipino blood.

Anonymous said...

During the Spanish time in the Philippines all those Filipinos criminals were sent to saipan and guam and some of them married chamoritas. These two island that time were used as dump for criminals from PI.

Anonymous said...

The board and entire operation sounds like a whose who of foreign characters including Mustafa Shakir, director Park, and Anne Kim to name a few.

bigsoxfan said...

Studying until ten at night, oh the horror, the shame. There are more than a few people who study after the work day is done. Shame on the teacher who didn't manage to write over time tutoring into the contract. Sarcasm aside, there are reasons that eastern student bury the rest in the mud when it comes to scholastic achievement. Ie. They are motaviated to study until ten at nightand I really don't think mom and dad kim waterboard the kids

Levan said...

Interesting news. In response to the blog, Edutourism: Business of Criminals, instead of answering the questions that were asked, LISS decided to close their blog.

Wendy said...

Bigsoxfan

It's not about studying after ten although having a schedule that is focused on school work from early morning until late at night can be extreme for a young child. Allegedly, some tutors are not "teachers", but are foreigners with tourist visas working illegally. Who knows if they are paid what they were promised or if they will ever be? Who knows if they have criminal records or should even be around children? Because they are working illegally they are at the mercy of the owners and may or may not ever be paid. Is there a person/s working in immigration who is a party/ parties to the scheme? Do the tourist/workers even speak enough English to be able to read a contract? Do they even know it is against the law to work on a tourist visa? While the foreign tourists may not understand the law, certainly the employers do know the law.

I am sure too that there is no water boarding. There are however allegations of human trafficking, and allegations of unpaid wages made by the teacher who filed the case and for numerous other teachers who did not yet file. Teachers in Korea working for the sister I-School filed a court case for unpaid wages there and won. I was informed that the school is closed down.

Do people minimize the severity of unpaid wages because they have extra money and do not know what it's like to live pay check to pay check having to make choices like whether to buy food or medicine? It can be, and is a horrible situation for those who can't rely on a regular and/or complete pay check. Imagine getting paid monthly and your check is late or it bounces. Or working overtime and not getting the overtime pay. Or not being paid even the minimum wage.

I did not post much of the information that I received that was not made as public comments, choosing instead to turn it over to authorities with the hope that they will actually investigate and take action. However, I will say this - LISS and another private school on Saipan both have serious allegations made against them concerning violations of the law including immigration fraud, various labor law violations and the most hideous being human trafficking. They also advertise as having "certified" teachers although some teachers lack credentials. When it gets into WASC accreditation and fraudulent papers it becomes a federal issue since federal loans and funds are involved. (LISS is not accredited but another private school with similar allegations is.)

Private schools are businesses yes, but they are primarily schools whose parents have entrusted the owners and administration to keep their children safe and they expect that their children will be given a quality education. Would you entrust your child to a boarding school if the owners could be human traffickers, do not pay the faculty in a timely manner, hire tourists, and could be involved in other violations? How would someone justify that in their mind? Do they think, "Oh well, they treat employees badly, but I am sure they treat the students well?"

If these allegations are found to be true, then the school should be shut down and the owners should serve jail time for human trafficking. (Title 18 U.S.C. §1589 and §1590) Where are the CNMI agencies that regulate private schools? What are the regulations? It is great that a private attorney is bringing this case to court, but where is the OAG?

Anonymous said...

Levan

The LISS site is still up. It is the "Tiger's Den" site that has been closed to the public. Some of the pages were copied to PDF files so they are documented.

Levan said...

That's what I'm saying. Their main page isn't a blog, and the Tiger's Den is, so what could I be talking about?

Anonymous said...

Wendy said . . .

Where are the CNMI agencies that regulate private schools? What are the regulations? It is great that a private attorney is bringing this case to court, but where is the OAG?

Is there even a CNMI statute on the books saying who regulates private schools? What is it?

At the college level, the legislature passed a constitutional amendment and the people ratified it, taking that authority away from the NMC Board of Regents in favor of a separate commission. But the legislature never in two years passed a law implementing it!

Didn't the PSS Board of Education formerly regulate private non-collegiate education? If that was taken away from them, was it given to someone with knowledge and resources to do the job properly?

Or has the legislature decided "for some reason" to leave private education totally unregulated in the CNMI.

Why would they do that? Kickbacks?

Anonymous said...

So with all these negative feedbacks regarding the school, we must transfer our kids asap to another school?

Anonymous said...

As several commenters pointed out,

Where is the federal AG?
Where is the FBI?
Where is the AG Investigative Unit?
Where is anyone except the private attorney?

Let the guys who rob poker shops sit in jail for awhile, and let the government spend some time on this case.