If yuh start wrong, yuh gine end wrong — so says every grandmother to a wayward child, or adult, at some time. It is born out of the wisdom that comes from experience.
It also sums up how we feel about how the prolonged saga at the Alexandra School has been handled. We could also add the old cliche — enough is enough — but we believe the “enough” stage was passed long, long ago.
What we have now is a monumental failure by those who are responsible for education in Barbados. We are into the final week of the first term of the academic year and there is nothing to suggest that below the surface anything has happened to improved the lot of the students who have no alternative but to journey to the northern campus five days per week.
Our colleagues in Fontabelle reported that a number of teachers, including senior members of the staff, walked out of the assembly hall last Friday morning when principal Jeff Broomes was delivering his report at the annual speech day, and remained out for the duration of his presentation. If that is not a powerful demonstration that Alexandra is still a hotbed of discontent, we don’t know what is.
We do not share the position that these teachers are innocent, spotless creatures in the Alexandra environment and that the principal is some devil that must be exorcised, neither do we believe that Broomes has exercised his responsibilities as head of the institution with a halo over his head. Both sides have contributed in no small way to the current state of affairs.
But we readily accept that the way the authorities has handled the Alexandra impasse would frustrate even the archangel Gabriel — far less the teachers, and no doubt the principal. It seems now like those with the power to act at Government Headquarters and the Elsie Payne Complex should have a rubber stand with the word “incompetence” made and every time they get a note or file with Alexandra on it, just stamp it and place it in the “hold indefinitely” tray.
For surely, someone has stopped making fun with the administration and staff of the Alexandra School and are now engaged in an extended comedy hour with the student body.
This is absolute foolishness. Somebody [or bodies] should either resign or be dismissed. People can’t call themselves administrators, draw a fat salary each month and preside over this level of failure. Beg someone to hold the sword and throw yourselves on it.
If we accept that the situation at Alexandra is untenable, and surely it is, then why would the appropriate persons not take action. We find the language and many of the recommendations of the Alexandra commissioner curious, but if authorities believe it provides the strength to act, then act.
We know that top officials from the Ministry of Education have met repeatedly with officials from the Personnel Administration Division in recent weeks, if it is accepted that Jeff Broomes must be moved — then move him. If the advice is such that to do so would be costly, but education authorities believe his departure is still the best or only option, then calculate the sum and pay him and let him go. We hardly think it will be more costly than the useless commission that was held!
We do not advocate anyone trampling on the rights of the principal, but sometimes human resource experts have had to advise their clients to calculate a senior manager’s entitlements, as well as what, based on precedent a court may award him if he or she sues for wrongful dismissal, pay the person their dues and let them go — all in the interest of the organisation.
And since we remain convinced that officials in the Ministry of Education are far better placed to make sensible recommendations than the commissioner ever was, then let them decide if others should follow suit, either by transfer or payout. Surely Jeff Broomes did not create the muddle that has become daily life at Alexandra alone.
Alternatively, if the advice of the legal experts is that the principal just simply cannot be touch, then say so to the country and the teachers, let them decide what their next step will be. If it is, like so many legal minds are reporting, the commission’s report in no way reduces or eliminates the need for the Public Service Commission to have its own “hearings” if it wants to take action, then tell Barbadians this is what must occur and nothing done or said by anyone will pre-empt this process.
What is not acceptable is this eternal studying and discussing of Alexandra School while the staff continue to be dissatisfied and the children shortchanged.
Please, display the metaphorical testicles expected of decision makers, and act. Unfortunately, this is Barbados and before we can shout Santa it will be Christmas — we’d all be lucky if anything gets done during the Christmas holidays. Then it will be January and the resumption of school! Oh, and of course election campaigning! Sorry Alexandra, make yourself comfortable in the back seat for a while longer.
We really do hope we are wrong…