by Roy R. Morris and Shawn Cumberbatch
The Alexandra School affair is about to hit its zenith.
The Freundel Stuart Cabinet met today, outside of its usual Thursday schedule, and the only item on the agenda was the report of the retired jurist who conducted a one-month probe into a breakdown in relations at the school, Frederick Waterman.
And while usually cooperative sources remained mum or were unreachable, others told Barbados TODAY that based on hints dropped at the Ministry of Education’s Elsie Payne Complex after the Cabinet meeting ended just after noon, it appeared that some firm decision had been taken.
Our investigations revealed that just over a week ago Minister of Education Ronald Jones, Chief Education Officer Laurie King and Permanent Secretary in the Ministry of Education Cecile Humphrey, were summoned to Ilaro Court, where they met Stuart and his Permanent Secretary, Sonja Welch.
As was the case with today’s meeting, details of what transpired at Ilaro Court remained sketchy. However, almost immediately after, all members of the Cabinet were served with notice to attend today’s session, even though the regular weekly meeting was already slated for, and took place as usual last Thursday.
While repeated efforts to contact Minister Jones were unsuccessful, Principal of the Alexandra School Jeff Broomes, who is on the second week of two weeks of sick leave, told Barbados TODAY he was unaware that the Cabinet meeting had been scheduled and knew nothing of its outcome.
Broomes’ management style and interaction with more than half of his teachers and their representative, the Barbados Secondary Teachers Union, came under intense scrutiny two months ago when Waterman headed a commission of enquiry, appointed by the Governor General on the advice of the Prime Minister.
Today, BSTU head, Mary Redman, who insisted before the enquiry, during the hearing and after its conclusion that her union would accept nothing but the separation of Broomes from the Alexandra School, said she too was unaware of the special Cabinet meeting or any decisions it took.
This week is the seventh of the Michaelmas term, which signals the beginning of the 2012/2013 school year, and there has been increasing concern that the promised speedy resolution to the Alexandra administrative breakdown has not materialised.
The public enquiry ended on August 27, final legal submissions were made two days later, and the commissioner delivered two “official” copies of his report to the Governor General and Prime Minister’s Office on September 21.
Waterman had been given an extension to complete his report, which was originally to have been submitted on August 31. This was after he had heard evidence from more than 30 witness over 36 days of hearings at the Garfield Sobers Sports Complex in Wildey.
It is unclear how many of the commission recommendations Government has accepted and will implement. One of the issues which had to be determined was whether there were any breaches or misconduct by anyone involved in the Alexandra matter.
While Broomes has remained at the helm of the institution, the Ministry of Education had announced it would set up a special “committee” to oversee Alexandra’s overall management. There is great anticipation among individuals associated with the school as to what the future holds for the principal, teachers, the board of management, in light of the Waterman report and Cabinet’s decision.
Broomes’ lawyers have already indicated that any attempt to move him from the school he has headed for the last 10 years would be contested in court, while the BSTU has not budged from its call to have the veteran educator “separated”.