by Donna Sealy
The Alexandra School appears headed for fresh trouble.
Chief Education Officer Laurie King has received a letter from the Barbados Secondary Teachers’ Union calling for embattled Principal Jeff Broomes to be sent “on leave with immediate effect”.
And in the correspondence, sent by BSTU General Secretary Mona Robinson a week prior to Monday’s resumption of classes at the St. Peter institution, the union representing the majority of its teaching staff also demanded answers about a special committee that now overseeing Alexandra’s management.
This has emerged as all parties involved in the industrial dispute at the school await the findings and recommendations of the Commission of Enquiry into the institution.
President Mary Redman noted that to date there had been no response, while King said he had “no comment to make at this time”.
In the letter, dated September 2, a copy of which was obtained by Barbados TODAY, the General Secretary outlined the union’s unequivocal position and followed what she called “comments passed by [King] at the hastily arranged meeting” on August 31 and subsequently during a telephone conversation between them on September 1.
The letter, which carried the heading “Clarification of Matters related to Alexandra School”, was copied to the chief personnel officer, the permanent secretary in the Ministry of Education, the chairman of the school board, the principal and the CTUSAB representative on the board.
Robinson noted that the education chief did not give the trade union, which represents several teachers of the Speightstown, St. Peter school, any assurances “whatsoever . . . in respect of the conduct of Mr. Jeffrey Broomes, Principal of the Alexandra School, either towards this union or in relation to any of its members at the Alexandra School”.
Robinson wrote: “The union reiterates that it reserves its position and shall consult its membership on the implications of the extension of the life of the Commission of Enquiry, and your consequential requests as expressed to the union.
“However, if the union is to represent faithfully for the consideration of its membership the requests made of it by you, then there must be clarification of the context in which you hope those requests would be honoured. You will appreciate that the sentiments you have expressed thus far have been vague and imprecise, and thus unsatisfactory. The union therefore asks formally that it be supplied in writing, and without delay, answers to the following questions.”
Some of the 11 questions posed by the union related to the same meeting and the composition of the committee which is to oversee the management of the school.
“3. What are the specific functions, powers, authority, duties, responsibilities, terms of reference intended start date and intended life of the above mentioned committee?
“4. Under which section of which law or regulation will the above mentioned committee derive its existence power and authority?
“5. Who shall supervise the above mentioned committee in its work and to whom is it accountable?
“6. What is to be the legal and professional relationship between the above mentioned committee and the teachers at Alexandra School, especially the deputy principal and those holding posts of special responsibility?
“7. Has either the board of management or any public officer, including the person currently employed as principal of the Alexandra School, agreed temporarily or otherwise, to delegate, waive or to subordinate in any way any of their powers, authority, obligations and responsibilities to the above mentioned committee in the execution of its duties? If so, please specify the details.
“8. What instructions or directions have been given, and by whom and on what date, to Mr. Jeffrey Broomes, principal of the Alexandra School, in respect of his conduct either towards the above mentioned committee or to the members of the union at the Alexandra School?” she asked.
The BSTU general secretary also questioned if the directions or instructions were given to Broomes in writing, what was his response and if that was put in writing.
Robinson also stated: “The union takes this opportunity to state, notwithstanding any answers you may offer to the above questions, its view that there should be an exercise of the statutory authority to send Mr. Jeffrey Broomes … on leave with immediate effect without loss of any entitlements.
“If Mr. Broomes is entitled to a term’s leave then that type of leave should be applied. If he is not so entitled, then he should be sent on special leave as provided for in General Orders. The union shall now await your response.”
King told Barbados TODAY last week that a monitoring team from the Ministry of Education would have been at the school on Monday and the ministry would keep a close eye on the institution.
He also said then: “At the end of the last school year we had put a monitoring team in place and that same monitoring team, oversight committee as we prefer to call it, will be in place to respond to any immediate concerns and to give essentially any assistance to the staff or that would be required to the staff and students”.
A Commission of Enquiry into the northern school began on June 28 and ended on August 29. firstname.lastname@example.org