Outgoing Principal Jeff Broomes has absolutely no interest in elective politics; not as a candidate and certainly not as a surrogate.
At a farewell function held in his honour at the Parkinson Memorial School today, the educator of 40 years, who was hailed for his significant contribution to the school system, made it clear that he would continue to support the political party and politicians of his choice, but said he had no desire whatsoever to become one of them, even though some were his friends and commanded his respect.
“I have been asked on many occasions about my future plans. I now openly say that I stand excitingly, willing and talentedly able to serve my country in any capacity in which I requested,” he, however, assured.
After four decades in the teaching profession, during which he said “he fought the good fight and was never blotted by any clouding darkness”, Broomes officially retires on May 1, 2016.
Today, he arrived at school in a limousine, accompanied by his wife Margaret and other immediate relatives, and was treated to a fond farewell by students, teachers and other well wishers.
Among the special invitees were Reverend Curtis Goodridge, attorney-at-law Vernon Smith, entertainer Carl “Alf” Padmore, and his “father in education” former principal Daryll Jordan.
Several educators, representing the five secondary schools at which he taught and provided leadership over the years, were also in attendance.
In paying glowing tribute to Broomes, Padmore declared that in June 2016, a formal application would be submitted to the Cabinet of Barbados recommending that the educator, who has built a lasting legacy, be included among the list of Independence honourees to be given a Barbados Service Star.
Captain Naomi Williams, who delivered remarks on behalf of the Alexandra School, spoke of Broomes’ pioneering programmes that allowed students to reach academic and sporting excellence.
“There is no way that any of us in attendance can quantify your magnanimous impact on the Alexandra School. It is one thing to be a stabilizing force when things are going well, but we all know that smooth seas do not make skillful sailors.
“You Mr Broomes have certainly proved your skill set within the education waters of the Alexandra School. You will be missed but your legacy will live on in the hearts of many,” Captain Williams said of the educator, whose tenure at the St Peter School was scarred by a bitter impasse with his teachers that led to the ordering of a State-sponsored Commission of Inquiry and his eventual separation from the St Peter school.
Today, Broomes also recalled his Alexandra years among those that “brought the glare of public exposure and differences of professional focus squarely on him.
“And boy did it make my eyes blink!” he said, as he reflected on his experiences there.
However, he said: “I am pleased that I kept my integrity intact, my focus un-blinkered and my conscience as clear as the most highly filtered water. I used my intellect, my experience and my sense of decency to fulfill the commitment I made on the first day that I entered the teaching profession,” he said.
The principal thanked his wife Margaret whom he met in the staff room at St Lucy Secondary (now Daryll Jordan Secondary), for walking with him through the entire journey, climbing the mountain in the good times and scraping the bottom of the ocean in the times of challenge, but never flinching or unduly questioning him.
“I remember the commission evenings when you just spoke simple words, saying that you knew the truth and that no matter what truth will win out.
“You asked me to relax and do not be pulled away from my values and principles. You were there every step of the way and I will never forget the strength you gave during those particular days,” he remarked.
The only regret he expressed today was that his deceased mother, who had channelled his interest in joining the profession back in 1975, was not here to share the special moment with him.
However, he said his daughter Lia had assured him that her grandmother would have indeed been proud of his career, which started at St Lucy Secondary, and also took him to St James Secondary and The St Michael School before he ended up at Parkinson three years ago.
But today Broomes was determined to forget the hiccups, as he described the staff at Parkinson as “terrific”, saying he would always be indebted to them.
“These students have also given me the privilege of laying claim to more children than I thought possible. Rachan, Curtisha, Dadre-Ann, Kida and the many others will stay with me forever,” the outgoing principal said.
As he reflected on his career, Broomes said he has had the distinct honour and pleasure of being fashioned and contextualized by some wonderful people at five different school. He said in each case, his focus was the same – as a teacher he sought answers and improvement through questioning and volunteering in diverse areas.
“We are the ones to assist, we are the ones to guide and we are the ones to develop. Yes I have punished many students, but I never allowed that to describe what discipline was to me.
“It was not my brandishing the big stick or the lashing whip but the establishment of standards, the enthusiastic response to students’ needs and the clear manifestation of love and care. That was my formula, and I am thankful to the thousands that defined the success or failure of my mission and my work,” Broomes said.
His immediate plans are to visit his beloved grand daughter Sufi in the United States.