head of board opposes view that interference in affairs led to worsening relations
Alleged interference in the affairs of the Alexandra School, leading to a worsening of relations between Principal Jeff Broomes and several of his teachers, has been denied by the head of the school’s board of management.
Chairman of Alexandra’s board of management Keith Simmons, QC, said when he took up his post in 2008 he was unaware of the extent of divisions among the institution’s staff, as well as the full nature of fractured relations with the principal.
Additionally, he did not believe a 2009 meeting with Deputy Principal Beverley Lashley, and some senior teachers, following a call for intervention by Barbados Secondary Teaches Union President Mary Redman, made the situation worse than he had found it.
Such a suggestion was put to Simmons during his examination by Broomes’ senior counsel Vernon Smith, QC, when the Commission of Enquiry into Alexandra resumed at the Wildey Gymnasium, Garfield Sobers Sports Complex.
Smith told Simmons he was responsible for driving a wedge between Broomes and his teachers by holding the meeting in question against the principal’s wishes.
“I don’t think I was interfering,” he said in response to a question from the lawyer. “You read anything from anybody and you will see who is responsible.”
“I have no responsibility for the teachers, I have said so 15 times.”
“I have to report to the minister, so I have to have some sort of responsibility.
“I knew nothing of divisions in the school at the time. As a matter of fact, when I met with the teachers I said who belongs to the Barbados Union of Teachers and who belongs to the Barbados Secondary Teachers Union because I thought the majority belong to the BUT,” he added.
Smith referred to a few occasions when Broomes wrote the Ministry of Education, raising concerns that Simmons, as chairman of the board of management, was encroaching on his territory, specifically in relation to the teaching staff.
Simmons said he told Broomes of his desire to have a meeting with the teachers, and the principal did not agree.
“I did not know of the depth of the problem and therefore I felt, ‘Why not?” he said.
“I did not know of any cleavage… Miss Redman asked if I would intervene, and I said yes I would assist and then I sent the minutes to Mr. Broomes… I felt this would help him to come to a conclusion or know where they were going.”
Simmons said when he eventually realised the gravity of the situation he decided to mind his own business and leave the industrial dispute to the relevant unions to work out. (SC)