Principal Jeff Broomes has virtually taken over the guidance counsellor role at the Alexandra School, leaving the appointed office holder out in the cold.
That’s what Cyrilene Willoughby, the St. Peter school’s sole guidance counsellor for 16 years told the Commission of Enquiry into Alexandra today. She was the first member of the school’s teaching staff to testify at the tribunal, which has been sitting for nearly two weeks now.
“I feel that the principal has more or less taken over the role of guidance counsellor as I would have normally functioned,” the witness told Commissioner Frederick Waterman. “I feel though that there are matters that I should be more closely involved in and I am made aware through the grapevine or made aware because the student comes and says ‘Ma’am I thought you know’.
“I feel that there is not the kind of relationships that we should have where we work together, … and I feel as if it is a situation now where he is dealing with the children and I have to wait until he chooses to involve me, because when I take matters into my own hands I am not sure if I am going to come into ‘It is not my business’,” she added.
Willoughby said Broomes constantly reminded her it was he who was the principal and her head of department, and that in recent times “there is really and truly not a lot of communication with us to discuss matters”.
She said matters had been made worse by the protracted industrial dispute at the school, including the most recent one in January this year, to the point where fewer students were confiding in her or sought her guidance.
“It still continued but I found to a lesser degree, because what I found was that students were going more now to my head of department, as in the principal, and therefore when issues came up sometimes I would be unaware of them and somebody would say to me ‘Well ma’am the principal knew so I thought you knew’,” the teacher said.
“I don’t know if it is that the confidence began to wane at that point or if it is that they had a sense of being redirected. What I have found is that with the current situation where we have had the impasse and so on I have found that students have gravitated towards other people…
“There are students who I have continued to work with. I have noticed there is a falloff in students who would come directly to me, but I have more or less put together other things that I would do,” she said. (SC)
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