Classes at the Parkinson Memorial Secondary School are expected to grind to a halt tomorrow, amid rising tensions between unionised teachers and principal Jeff Broomes.
The Barbados Union of Teachers (BUT) has summoned 54 of the 61 teachers at the Pinelands St Michael institution to an emergency meeting at the union’s headquarters at 9:30 a.m.
BUT President Pedro Shepherd told Barbados TODAY the union had called out its members in protest of the management style and attitude of the principal to members of the teacher staff.
However, in an interview with Barbados TODAY at the school’s compound, Broomes said he was made aware of the impending protest action through an anonymous letter that had been making the rounds outlining recent problems at the school.
“I was surprised firstly when I saw the letter because I did not even know that something was afoot,” Broomes told Barbados TODAY, while appealing to the teachers to keep the peace and to put the interests of the students first.
“I am of the view that most of the teachers at the school have the school at heart. Most of the teachers work well with me and I work well with them. I am very comfortable with trying to reverse the trend of the school,” he said.
However, he did admit that some fall out had occurred with some members of his teaching staff over his introduction of a new computer programme in the junior school.
The principal, who was home on sick leave at the beginning of the school year in September, said when he returned to Parkinson four weeks later, he found that the programme he had implemented was removed.
But noting that Government had spent over $500 million in the mid-1990s to equip several schools with computer technology, he argued that “it would be a waste of funds to simply drop the programme”.
“They [teachers] took Religious Education right out of the junior school,” he added, descibing the move as “absolute nonsense”.
Broomes, who has met with the Chief Education Officer Laurie King on the matter, has since moved to reinstitute the programmes.
The former Alexandra School principal, who was transferred to Parkinson at the height of similar tensions with teachers at the St Peter institution, said: “I just want peace at the Parkinson Memorial Secondary School. I just do not want the children at this school to be disadvantaged.”
However, he lamented that “47 per cent of the students [there] do not attend church” and for the last five years more than 63 per cent of students at Parkinson had left school every year without a certificate.
“Parkinson in a strange way is the only school in Barbados that is located in one of our depressed communities. I do not think it gets the attention it deserves. It is clear that education in Barbados seems to be focused on the talented and the bright.
“I think that at the end of the day people like me have to focus on improving [students at] the bottom otherwise those are the ones who will force us to install burglar bars and be afraid to drive at night. I am going to do everything to help poor people’s children,” he stressed, while stating that it was his intention to ensure that every student leaves with at least three certificates.
Efforts to reach King were unsuccessful. Barbados TODAY was also told that his deputy Karen Best is on leave, while David Clement, the other deputy, said he could not comment on the situation.
When contacted, General Secretary of the National Union of Public Workers (NUPW) Dennis Clarke said he would wait to see what happens tomorrow.
Noting that Broomes was a longstanding member of the NUPW, Clarke said parents of children attending Parkinson School had been supportive of the principal in his drive to improve the quality of education offered at the school.
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