PORT OF SPAIN – In a surprise move which stunned officials of the Ministry of Education, Ste Madeleine Secondary School’s principal initiated legal action against the Trinidad and Tobago Unified Teachers Association (TTUTA).
The pre-action protocol letter came one day after a TTUTA advertisement published in the newspapers, condemned both the Teaching Service Commission (TSC) and ministry for their “inaction” in addressing the grave issues at the school.
In the paid advertisement, TTUTA levelled several accusations against a senior school official whom they claimed had breached school regulations and had refrained from acting in a manner beneficial to the staff and students.
During a press conference in Port of Spain yesterday, Education Minister Anthony Garcia and Chief Education Officer Harrilal Seecharan shied away from addressing issues, noting it may have future ramifications. However, both men stressed it was unacceptable that the situation continues to negatively impact teaching and learning at the school.
Confirming the pre-action protocol letter had been directed against TTUTA president Lynsley Doodhai, Garcia said, “What we have found now, is there seems to be a battle developing between the principal or the school’s administration and TTUTA.”
He said the ministry would be shirking its responsibility if it failed to intervene in the matter and reassured teachers and students that they would continue to receive a quality education.
Garcia said they were made aware of “ongoing and simmering problems for some time now” and had taken steps to address the issues raised during a meeting with TTUTA early last month. He said a decision had been taken to assemble a task force to investigate the complaints of alleged misconduct, which had led to several visits to the school to ascertain from teachers, students, deans and heads of departments what the issues were and how they should be addressed.
Depending on the investigation’s outcome, he said the matter would be reported to the TSC, who would then decide if they will take action against the principal or whether they themselves will appoint a disciplinary tribunal to look at the matter more closely.
Several calls to Doodhai’s cellphone went unanswered last evening, but two former TTUTA officials said the situation must be addressed quickly.
The two former officers agreed the ministry had failed to act in a timely manner to address the issues at the school, but noted that TTUTA’s general council had given permission for the pressure to be increased in this case. They added too that this was not the first time a TTUTA official was being sued for libel and slander.
Meanwhile, Garcia said he was unaware of an incident in which students threw missiles at teachers who were protesting outside the school yesterday. He said he could not comment on the incident until there was a full investigation into it. However, Seecharan said the ministry would not condone such action if it proved to be true.