Outrageous Injustice Against a CNMI Youth

September 17, 2011

Katelyn Alpino, Photo by Nani Doromal ©2008
A beautiful and intelligent young lady from Rota appears to have been terribly wronged by the Rota High School, the CNMI Scholarship Office and by some CNMI officials who were contacted, but have not pursued her case.

Katelyn Manalang Alpino was denied the CNMI Honor Scholarship Grant by the CNMI Scholarship Board.  The scholarship is regulated by the CNMI Honor Scholarship Act, 3 CMC §1342. It awards the top graduates of the senior classes (8 from Saipan, 2 from Rota and 2 from Tinian) a maximum of $15,000 in college scholarships for each academic year up to 5 years.

Katelyn  graduated from Rota High School in June 2011 and was recognized by the CNMI Board of Education as the class valedictorian, having earned the highest grade point average (GPA). At the graduation ceremonies she also received the Governor's Leadership Award, the Rota Mayor's Award and a $1,000 scholarship from the Manglona's Kolehio Foundation.

As a student, Katelyn was exemplary and stood out from her peers. While attending Rota High School she served as the president of the National Honor Society, the secretary of the senior class, treasurer of Take Action Youth Advisory, and vice-president of Upward Bound Program. She was a member of many clubs and organizations including the Youth Advisory Board, JROTC, STUCCO, the Rota High School Mock Trial Team, and Teen Talk.

Katelyn received numerous honors and awards throughout her high school career.  In 2008 Katelyn was selected to attend Princeton University under the Junior Statesmen of America Program. In 2010, as part of the Upward Bound Program, she was selected to attend a summer pre-college residential program at Leeward College in Hawaii.

In addition to her academic accomplishments, Katelyn has been a tireless volunteer in Rota, serving the community through numerous activities and countless selfless hours of service. Among her many volunteer activities, she volunteered at the Rota Health Center. When interviewed about being selected to attend the summer college program in Hawaii, Katelyn said, “I always wanted to be a pediatrician after working for the Rota Health Center.”

It is not surprising that Katelyn is presently at Pennsylvania University studying pre-medicine in order to pursue a degree in medicine.

Everyone in Rota must be extremely proud of Katelyn's academic and community accomplishments. Her family certainly is. Our family also applauds Katelyn's outstanding achievements and success! Katelyn's father, Art Alpino worked for years with my husband at the Paupau Hotel in the 1990s where Boboy performed every evening in the restaurant and at the outside bar. The Alpinos are a caring, sweet and wonderful family and we consider them beloved family friends.

We were shocked to hear that Katelyn was denied the CNMI Honors Scholarship since she was the valedictorian of her class. The series of events surrounding the award suggest that there were some improprieties and irregularities in awarding the scholarship. Instead of awarding the scholarship to Rota's 2011valedictorian and salutatorian, the board awarded the scholarships to the salutatorian, Pauline M. Manglona and the third place ranked student, Crystal Calvo, bypassing Katelyn.

On August 11, 2011 Mr. Alpino, Katelyn's father received a denial letter dated July 28, 2011 from the CNMI Scholarship Office. It offered no explanation for the denial. Katelyn was already at Pennsylvania University to begin her studies believing that she would receive the scholarship.

The scholarship is especially important because the family has faced financial hardship. As an employee of the Rota Hotel, Mr. Alpino has been a victim of wage theft for over a year. He is owed $9,000 in back wages from his criminal employers and the hotel's managers Yoshiro Kishimoto and Masahiro Watanabe.

On Monday, August 15, 2011 Mr. Alpino called  the CNMI Scholarship Office to inquire why the scholarship was denied. Ms. Jackie Che, the new administrator, informed him that his daughter's scholarship was not denied; it had been approved. He also learned that Ms. Merissa S. Rasa, the previous administrator, resigned on August 3, 2011.

Ms. Che instructed Mr. Alpino to fax the letter of denial to the CNMI Scholarship Office so that they could issue a corrective letter to indicate that she was approved to receive the Honors Scholarship
Grant. Ms. Che additionally stated that the approval letter would be sent to Katelyn Alpino via e-mail.

On Tuesday, August 16, 2011 Mr. Alpino faxed the denial letter back to CNMI Scholarship Office early in the morning and the receipt was confirmed and acknowledged by Desiree, a member of the office staff.

Mr. Alpino called the CNMI Scholarship Office on Thursday, August 18, 2011 to verify if the letter of approval was sent. Jackie Che's responded that the letter of approval would be sent either Monday or Tuesday of next week (August 22 or August 23, 2011).  Katelyn needed the letter to present to the university for payment reference for her tuition.

On Tuesday August 23, 2011 Mr. Alpino called the CNMI Scholarship Office to follow up on the approval letter.  He was surprised to learn that office administrator Jackie Che had "made an error" and Katelyn's Alpino's Honors Scholarship Award was actually denied based on misinformation from the Rota High School.

This email from Ms. Che to Mr. Alpino verifies that a serious mistake was made that resulted in Katelyn's scholarship denial. Rota High School apparently sent the wrong GPA to the Scholarship Board, either in error or purposely, to deny Katelyn the scholarship.



Based on the administrator's advise, on August 24, 2011 Mr. Alpino sent a letter of appeal to the CNMI Scholarship Office outlining the events and facts. In the letter, Mr. Alpino suggested that his daughter may be the victim of discrimination.

On Thursday, August 25, 2011 after the Scholarship Board Meeting, the Administrator Jackie Che informed Mr. Alpino that the appeal was being considered.   The Rota High School had indeed reported that Katelyn's GPA was lower than that of the salutatorian and 3rd ranking student. This information is false. The board had instructed the administrator to call Rota High School principal Sharlene Manglona about validity of Katelyn Alpino's transcript of records and the errors in information transmitted to the Scholarship Board. On Monday, August 29, 2011 Mr. Alpino received information from the CNMI Scholarship Office that the Rota High School principal could not be reached.

On August 29, 2011 Mr. Alpino sent a letter to Board of Education Chair Dr. Rita Sablan by certified mail. He provided the administrator with a copy of that letter appealing for an investigation and corrective action. Mr. Alpino also sent Dr. Sablan the letter and attachments by email on that same day. Dr. Sablan responded to the email stating, "Dear Mr Alpino: Thank you for your letter and will respond to this according to our grievance Procedure. Someone from my office will be in contact with you shortly."

Since the letter was sent 19 days ago, no one from the Board of Education has contacted Mr. Alpino or Katelyn. Surely, they must know that tuition has to be paid and this matter needs to be addressed immediately.

Here is a section of Mr. Alpino's letter to Dr. Rita Sablan and the Board of Education:
Everyone knows that my daughter, Ms. Katelyn M. Alpino graduated from Rota High School in 2011 as valedictorian, the highest academic honor. She was awarded this honor based on her G.P.A. and for the outstanding credentials that she obtained within her four years of education at Rota High School. You were here with us on that special occasion last June 10, 2011 celebrating the achievements of Katelyn and other graduating scholars.

Our nightmare begun when we learned that Katelyn was not selected by the CNMI Scholarship Board to receive the Honor Scholarship Grant. We were deeply stunned to learn that the recipients were the salutatorian, and the student who received third honor. Katelyn was first honors and was unfairly denied the scholarship.

How did this happen? We have learned from the CMNI Scholarship Office that my daughter's G.P.A. was incorrectly reported by Rota High School as lower than the two recipients of the scholarship. This is NOT TRUE. The valedictorian has the highest cumulative G.P.A. of the graduating class. Katelyn had the highest G.P.A. Why were falsified grades submitted to the committee and how will the committee correct this outrage?

Before we learned about the falsified information that Rota High School sent to the committee, I wrote a letter of appeal addressed to the CNMI Scholarship Administrator (attached for your reference), asking them why my daughter was not selected. It is timely that the Scholarship Board had a meeting last Wednesday, August 25 and our appeal was discussed. The administrator, Ms. Jackie Che was instructed to further investigate by calling the Rota High School principal, Ms. Sharlene Manglona. I have attached the email response from the scholarship administrator concerning her investigation.

We have sent our daughter to the mainland for her college education with the knowledge that, as valedictorian, she would be the recipient of this Honor Scholarship Grant. What we will do now? Should we tell her she must return to the CNMI because she was cheated? My daughter cried upon hearing this disturbing news, and is still depressed by the unfavorable action that has negatively impacted her future and all of our lives.
On September 15, 2011 Mr. Alpino sent additional letters appealing for corrective action to Rota Senators Paul Manglona, Juan Ayuyu, and Jovita Taimano and Representative Teresita Santos  In his letter, Mr. Alpino stated, "How this happens?.... My daughter graduated a valedictorian and how come she had the lowest GPA? There's something wrong. There's an error, manipulation or misconduct by the Rota High School personnel headed by Ms. Sharlene Manglona." He also appealed to Congressman Gregorio Sablan for assistance in August 2011.

Has this board learned nothing from past similar unjust actions? Can they seriously afford a costly lawsuit? The scholarship board was sued by Roselle Calvo who was also unjustly denied scholarship funds in 2006 because the board failed to follow the law in awarding the Honors Scholarship.  The CNMI Supreme Court ordered the board to recalculate the awards based on the law. From the Saipan Tribune:
Calvo graduated as her class salutatorian at Marianas Baptist Academy in May 2006. She was one of the 29 Saipan high school students who applied for an honor scholarship. After complying with all the requirements of the applications, she was not chosen for the award.

She appealed her case but the board maintained its decision, citing that Calvo ranked 11th only among the Saipan applicants as grounds for rejecting her application.

In her petition, Calvo argued that the scholarship board disregarded the criteria set forth in selecting scholarship recipients, which include grade point average, SAT or ACT score, extra-curricular activities, difficulty of high school coursework, and letters of recommendation.

The Supreme Court, in its decision, indicated that the scholarship board shall promptly promulgate rules and regulations consistent with the statutory language of the Constitution, which requires the board to weigh the five criteria.

The court ordered the scholarship board to reevaluate the entire set of applications for the 2006 honor scholarships and award the scholarships based on the statutory-mandated criteria.
Over three decades I have witnessed terrible injustices against the foreign workers and their families committed by individuals and CNMI officials, but such an egregious act against an outstanding young community member stands out among the worst and must not go unchallenged. Whether the decision was made in error or motivated by politics or racism, it must be corrected immediately so that Katelyn can receive the scholarship award that she has earned. In Roselle Calvo's case an attorney, Robert Torres, stepped up to defend her because he "saw an injustice."  We hope that there is an attorney in the CNMI today who will step up to help the Alpinos for the same reasons. Please.

23 comments:

The Saipan Blogger said...

Hi Wendy, maybe I missed it, but this blog doesn't point out that Calvo and Manglona are two large Chamorro families on Rota. I do not recognize Alpino as a Chamorro name. Call a spade a spade.

Wendy Doromal said...

Hi Angelo

No, I figured readers would know that. I did point out that KAte is the daughter of foreign workers. Pauline Manglona is the daughter of Senator Manglona and his wife, Lydia. I am not sure who the parents of Crystal Calvo are, but you are correct Manglona and Calvo are well-known family names in Rota.

It's not your money! said...

This may be a deprivation of civil rights under color of law. The school and scholarship officials need to be investigated by the FBI. There may also be a criminal conspiracy involving those officials and others.

Wendy Doromal said...

It's Not Your Money:

Thank you, for your comment. I was wondering if it may be criminal. I will suggest to Art that he may want to contact the FBI.

Does anyone know if the Civil Rights Commission responds to complaints of this kind also?

I was trying to locate the funds source and it appears that the scholarships are funded by the CNMI government.

Green Cards for All! said...

This kind of thing has been going on in the CNMI for decades. There is little commitment to the rule of law, and those who try to make positive change from within at the OAG are chased away by those with vested interests protecting their own exceptionalism as well as, ironically, by putative "activists".

The Calvo case in no way compares to this true injustice. In Calvo, the board was using one of the required qualifications solely as a "tie-breaker," rather than in the initial determination. But even if that had been considered, she STILL wouldn't have qualified for a scholarship. That case was essentially a spoiled rich brat defending her honor, and winning a technical legal victory based on previously unclear criteria.

Here, there is no doubt a more-qualified person was passed over for a less-qualified person. This most likely DID NOT happen by accident, no matter what claims are made now that this rip-off has been unmasked.

I hope the valedictorian is not forced to disenroll from her studies.

Wendy Doromal said...

Green Cards for All

Thank you for a comment.

Please if anyone knows an attorney who will take this case, let us know.

Anonymous said...

Rota is probably the most political of all the islands in the CNMI. If you didn't vote for the "right" candidate you and your family will be punished. It even gets to the level of not being allowed (ignored so much you leave)to shop in certain stores. Some families have such strong political connections they can steer useless CIP projects to Rota. Examples are a large court house that is used a few times a month, a library that was completed in 2003 and never opened, a 1.3 million dollar hemodialysis clinic that was completed last year and will never open due to lack of properly trained medical staff and maintenance funding. Meanwhile the electrical grid continues to crumble, sewers spew waste out on on the roads, DPS has a no funding to meet it's responsiblilities to the public. You can thank the preconceived aristocratic chamorrow pedigree for this nonsense.

Anonymous said...

As stated by 6:54, this is not unusual and has been going on for so many years in various forms. It is the greed of the families and sense of entitlement, especially by the "connected" with money.

Years ago on Tinian, a friend who happened to be from the US mainland had met and married his wife while she was in college there.
After some years he got out of the service he accompanied her to Tinian.
She happened to be from a very connected family in Tinian.
Since they could not have children they took in her niece and raised her as there own, while the husband was put into a high paying Govt position that has nothing to do with his expertise. She also in a high position. (Both in excess of $70k a year.)
During the years the niece was doing fairly well in school but not the top of the class to be able to get the scholarship.

A plan was discussed around Friday night get togethers to change the nieces grades to make this girl a Valedictorian.
Since the Auntie was now a political appointee as Principal of Tinian High School it would be easy.
The first approach would be to intimidate and pay off the teachers to change any low grades.
Since the teachers were from the US mainland and most did not stay a second year that would be easy.
If this failed, the Principal would change the grades in the computer and files.
This plan worked and the girl went on to become the Valedictorian of her class and got the scholarship.

BTW, that former Principal was eventually replaced when certain families rose up about some of her improprieties concerning grades and graduation.(recent years)
The Principal was then sent on to a summer paid vacation to Oregon by the BOE in the guise of "recruiting" new teachers (none was ever recruited) and after other short Govt. jobs, now presently is with the Library system. (last heard)
She is very openly prejudice against non-NMD. She also could not pass PRAXIS or ever had any Administrative training or skills.

In Rota years ago by the Magnola families and others, I also witnessed the prejudice against the CW at events I was attending concerning a family members' death.
This being that the workers were called and addressed by their nationalities.
Such as "Hey Bangladesh (or Flip, Filipino) come here"

I also hope that this young lady finds a "Defender"
I can't wait for the day that these CW children have the numbers to vote many of these politicians out.

Anonymous said...

I have an unresolved case with one Junior High School in Saipan about the GPA and awarding. My daughter should be the valedictorian,but they made her third ranking though the transcript of records will always says that she rank number 1 out of the total graduates that school year.PSS and other educational institution should not CHEAT on the students grades for affinity, racism or political reasons.

Anonymous said...

It reminds us of the SHEFA Issues denying Scholarship for US Citizen Kids with Non US Parents- just a year ago.
They never learned from their previous mistake.

Anonymous said...

This story is only outrageous to someone who has never been to the CNMI. When political and economic power is controlled by the hands of the few, injustice will continue. Until local workers start replacing non-residents, "2 year contracts" for mainlanders end, and article 12 is abolished, there will be no change.

As a U.S. citizen, Katelyn Alpino can qualify for guaranteed student loans for school. UPenn likely gave her at least 30K out of the 42K tuition. She can easily take out 60K in student loans to attend school. In 2-3 years if an attorney can get the case heard in Saipan Court, she may be able to obtain a judgment against the CNMI that she can place on her wall as a souvenir.

Anonymous said...

http://www.mvariety.com/2010101431107/local-news/hopwood-parent-says-daughter-should-have-been-valedictorian.php

Anonymous said...

I say eliminate the Honors Scholarship. Not only is it unfair to all CNMI students parents and students become sharks because of it. It's a privilege to have $$$ like this. We did not have this back in my day. I say equal treatment and $ for all students. Whatever the outcome, I'm sure Ms. Alpino will get if not a full ride to her school then close to it. If she is as outstanding as her father claims her to be I think she deserves to have a full ride from the school. Hopefully she returns back to the CNMI to practice medicine and help our community rather than petition her parents (if they are contract workers) and live in the US mainland to have a better life. Its rather unfair to give students so much money and not have them return.

I'm sure this will get resolved. FBI? I think you're getting too ahead of yourself there.

Anonymous said...

This is WRONG. If the RHS principal won't answer someone better. I hope this family sues. They will win. This school should be ashamed. Something big is going on here when that much money is taken from someone who earns it to give to someone who has family connections. It might not be getting ahead of yourself to call the FBI. This stinks of a corruption plot.

Anonymous said...

It hasn't been mentioned that Mr. Alpino himself had gone to see the principal. Rather than trying to call and not get a response he should March up there and demand to meet with the principal face to face to get the real reason why her GPA was lower than that of the other scholars. I understand going a step beyond, you should try and resolve the matters first internally which include speaking with the principal face to face. Only then can Mr. Alpino speak out and relay what was discussed.

I truly sympathize for Ms. Katelyn as I know her and the principal dearly. I just wished this article would mention if there was a direct consultation with the principal, which after all, is where this problem started.

Anonymous said...

10:10
Is this principal a grownup? She should answer to Kate and Mr. Alpino for her school's mistake. She has already been contacted. Don't try to twist this. RHS screwed up big time and got caught. They have to make this right!

Anonymous said...

As a former RHS employee (even during last school year), I have seen the racism that happens towards Filipino/a students and non-Chamorro faculty/staff. I do believe that family names, rather than student achievement, was a big argument in the past couple of years. Let it also be known that RHS does not pick the highest GPA for validictorian - it picks the student who attended all 4 years at RHS with the highest GPA. This leaves out the talented students, who through no fault of their own, moved from one island to the other during their high school years. I watched a high performing student not get valedictorian because he had attended a year in Saipan, and the student that got it had dropped my class because he couldn't pass it and didn't want it on his record. As for PSS, they screwed me out of paychecks and health insurance (eventually getting me the paycheck but not the insurance) and therefore my new job's health insurance won't cover "pre-existing conditions" because my PSS insurance didn't last me the summer long until my new job started. So good luck getting anything out of them - they mess everything up and don't answer any calls. I suggest - get a lawyer, get some student loans in the meantime and get out of Rota!

Anonymous said...
This comment has been removed by a blog administrator.
Anonymous said...

The problem with the whole story is one word: Rota.
Get off Rota. It's a cesspool. There is no good reason to stay. Just becuase your family has been poor there forever doesn't mean you have to. Get out and let's turn the island into a petting zoo, or one of those places where you bring animals in for rich people to shoot. Something, but not a place that humans should live.
What kind of life do you have there anyway? Wendy, I know you lived there and i have been there numerous times. We do business down there.
One of the big problems on Rota is the "Us aganist Them" mentality. CUC does not even trust the local workers to do disconnects of power. If two people working there have main offices on Guam or Saipan they just get together and steal from each other. It's true.
Guam and Saipan can't really do much about it becuase the the person you replace them with is probably a bigger thief than the one you have. And, let's face it, nobody's going to move there. I work on Saipan and I mentioned to an employee I wanted him to work on Rota. He quit the next week and moved to Guam.
My advice GET OUT AND GET OUT NOW!!

Wendy Doromal said...

Anonymous 12:57

I lived for over 10 years on Rota. There are many good and honest people who live there -many of them remain among my closest friends. It is a beautiful place with many positives.

Unfortunately, like the rest of the CNMI, it is also corrupt, and too often people get away with cheating, and violating the law. Why? Because the CNMI created an undemocratic, un-American two-teired society where a majority of the people are disenfranchised and have NO BASIC RIGHTS. Few stand up for them. Even those that do, will only go so far because they want to keep their jobs, or their contracts or their funding sources. Few speak up because they themselves benefit from the status quo, or from being pals with the political elite who toss some crumbs or favors their way from time to time. That is the reality of the CNMI. Others are just plain racists or totally selfish.

As long as people tolerate corruption it will continue. Look at the AGO and the DPS - they reek of corruption. Look at the number of law enforcement officers who have violated the law. The CNMI will never change until every person is given basic and equal rights. Imagine if every foreign worker in Rota was franchised. Would this happen? Hell no!

I will not let this go without seeing justice for Katelyn and her family. A girl has been terribly wronged and it is harming her and her family. This action is most likely a violation of law. It must be corrected. She needs an attorney. I am asking an attorney to please help her. The family need someone to take this case pro bono. Does anyone know an attorney who will take this case pro bono? In the meantime, I will notify people in Washington, DC and contact the Civil Service Commission and FBI as was suggested.

Anonymous said...

People are making such a huge mess out of this. I suggest they all meet and talk this out. I'm sure there was an error in the tabulation of grades. Mr. Alpino should just sit and wait it out or meet with the Principal. Has he ever met the Principal? Also, a complete report could not be written in less than a week after having discussed the case. The person would have to travel to Rota to get info. from both Mr. Alpino and the Principal then request for meetings with several other people involved in this case for more info. If they ignored his request, then by ALL MEANS contact Washington, the FBI, and even OBAMA if necessary. I haven't heard a single word about these people clearing things up with each other before resorting to drastic measures. Everything takes time. I don't understand why everyone thinks they DESERVE free $. We are hand feeding these kids. Let them work in high school to help offset their college tuition. And I would agree with eliminating Honors scholarships too. They take a huge chunk of the pie and there's so much legal issues involved. What a mess!

Anonymous said...

10:14 What free dollars? the scholarships go to the two students with HIGHEST GPA MS. ALPINO HAD highest GPA UNLESS RHS CHANGED GRADES to give scholarship to Calvo. Should NMI people who take FREE $ from US every day talk about FREE money? This scholarship's a law. FOLLOW RULES FOR ALL! NO MORE CHEATING! Who trusts PSS or BOE? Who trusts RHS? Why they can't figure this since August? FBI should be called to see who changed grades at RHS.

Anonymous said...

anon Sept 20, 10:14 PM

a mess is a mess is a mess. no small or huge mess. a mess is a mess. but yes you are right with only one thing you say. everything takes time. delayed in time. you can't turn back the hands of time. every second, every minute is important. you are not the victim here so it's easy for you to say to sit and wait. a very very wrong advise. people should not sit and wait. people should go and get things done.