Outspoken senior teacher Reverend Charles Morris is totally fed up with the situation at Combermere School.
While describing it as “complete chaos”, today he called on the Ministry of Education to “urgently” intervene to prevent the situation from getting worse.
The Anglican cleric also called for Prinicipal Vere Parris to go, claiming that 98 per cent of Combermere teachers no longer had any confidence in him.
“I believe the time has come for the principal of Combermere to do one of three things – resign his position, retire, or the Ministry should remove him as principal. He has not shown the requisite leadership in the circumstances and I am adamant that the principal must go,” he told Barbados TODAY.
Morris, who in an interview last week had called for the school to be permanently closed, also snubbed suggestions by the principal that a foul odour which has been affecting the school was caused by nearby acacia trees, pointing out that environmental assessments conducted by authorities last year did not name the trees as a possible source of the problem.
When a Barbados TODAY team visited the Waterford institution today, the gates were closed but students were seen roaming the compound.
The news team was not allowed to enter the compound. However, some senior students reported that just after 10 o’clock this morning they were told to evacuate the classrooms and to assemble on the playing field.
While some junior students appeared unsure about what was happening, Morris said he had received a call from a junior teacher complaining of the stench in her classroom.
“I went to other classrooms and the stench was in other classrooms as well,” he said, complaining, “every day we are being told it is a tree [but] we are long pass a tree and it is time that the authorities recognize that there is a problem at Combermere.”
Charging that anything that puts the school in a negative light was being hidden, Morris was also adamant that too many “lies” were being told, but he said teachers were too scared to speak up even though they were just as fed up as him with the present conditions.
“What is happening at Combermere School is as close to a catastrophe as you can get. We need intervention at Combermere School, the Ministry needs to intervene . . . . It has gone far too far and before it gets worse, intervene.
“It not just the tree,” he insisted.
However, suggesting that that environmental issues were just the tip of the iceberg, Morris gave the principal a failing grade on several counts, including what he described as a complete breakdown of discipline.
In fact, he challenged the principal to deny that a student had threatened to shoot a teacher on two occasions and that teacher went to the police station,” saying “initially [the report] seemed to be glossed over by the principal.”
The senior teacher also highlighted poor relations between the principal and teachers, disclosing that staff meetings had been put on hold.
“People have no confidence in him. If they are 60 members of staff I am willing to tell you that 98 per cent have no confidence in him because of what they say at staff meetings.” Morris told Barbados TODAY he had personally walked out of three staff meetings held by the principal.
Further blasting Parris’ handling of the persistent environmental problem at Combermere, Morris charged that the principal had not stepped up and defended his staff on the matter.
“Right now this is not about upmanship, as far as I am concerned this is not about anybody looking good, this is people’s health,” he maintained.
Morris also complained that after an environmental study conducted at the school last year, the principal had reported that the Board of Management had requested that it not be shared with staff.
However, he said when Parris was asked if he was comfortable with the report, he never answered.
Morris said the school board later rescinded its position after teachers had threatened to abandon classes and report to the Ministry of Education.
Meanwhile, president of the Barbados Secondary Teachers Union (BSTU) Mary Redman today reiterated her position that a “serious” investigation was needed.
Prior to a meeting with officials at Combermere, she told Barbados TODAY: “I understand from my shop stewards there that there was the smell of gases. It was particularly strong on the third floor, at the back of the school, in the foyer area as well, so the school was evacuated.”
Asked again if she supported Morris’ view that the school should be closed permanently, Redman said: “It is not a matter of sharing that view . . . because the reality is, it would require serious planning, reorganization and financial outlay that most likely the Ministry of Education would say that they don’t have at this time.
“However, that being said, neither the health nor well-being of any of the teachers or the students and other workers on that compound should be compromised. So what I would say is that there needs to be serious ongoing investigation as to what the true problem in the school is,” she stressed.
“We thought that the matters had been addressed. We thought that the problems had been rectified, but obviously they have not. So now it requires expeditious further investigation and some plan of action to deal with it,” the union official added. (MM/SD)