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– as Alexandra School Commission of Inquiry begins
The concerns which led to the unrest at the Alexandra School were clarified when the first session of the School’s inquiry commenced at the Wildey Gymnasium yesterday.
The first witness, former Permanent Secretary in the Ministry of Education, Bruce Alleyne, confirmed the listed concerns of the Barbados Secondary Teachers Union (BSTU) with regard to the School’s Principal, Jeff Broomes, when examined by the Commission’s Senior Counsel, Milton Pierce.
Alleyne highlighted that the January strike at the St. Peter institution was fuelled by remarks made by Broomes during the December 2, 2011 Speech Day ceremony, when he publicly criticised a teacher.
He also confirmed allegations made by the BSTU of disrespect to the teaching staff by Broomes; an incident of refusing to pay a former part-time music teacher for services rendered to the school when he accompanied students on a tour as part of a CXC programme; non-payment of travel for a staff member; and the recruitment of temporary teachers.
In relation to the recruitment of teachers, Senior Counsel Pierce queried if Broomes had complied with the Education Act; to which Alleyne responded that he had not.
“The Principal was accused of recruiting three temporary teachers without the necessary consultancy with the respective Heads of Department at the School. The Law requires a Principal to consult with a Head of Department at his school when recruiting temporary teachers. This was not done and I know for a fact that this was not done. Mr Broomes did admit at a meeting to recruiting the three persons without following the correct procedure,” Alleyne revealed.
The former PS went on to confirm that back in 2010, arising out of discussions to resolve concerns at that time, an inspection into the Alexandra School was carried out under the Education Act.
“Because of the concerns at the school, it was felt by the Ministry that it would have been best for all if an appraisal was done on the school and the BSTU would have been allowed to nominate someone to sit on that committee. The purpose of the inspection would have been to get to the bottom of the issues that kept resurfacing at the school and find a way forward for the improved management of the overall school,” he testified.
Proposals for separation
Senior Counsel Pierce also made reference to a list of six proposed suggestions for Mr Broomes’ separation from Alexandra, which was presented to the Ministry of Education by consultant to the BSTU, Patrick Frost.
He noted: “The Principal would have reached the age of 58 on Christmas Day and could be retired; the Ministry could suspend him and allow for an investigation which will provide the opportunity for a separation; the relevant parties could enter into negotiations to pay him out; the parties could apply the provisions under Cap 25 of the Pensions Act where a public officer could be retired with the approval of the Governor General; the BSTU and the teaching staff of the school, with the absence of any of the options cited, could take industrial action to achieve separation, and; under law the Public Service Commission can impose sanctions on a public officer.”
Pierce further asked the former PS to state the Ministry’s response to Mr Frost’s listed methods of separation.
Alleyne made it clear that the Ministry did not agree with the suggestions as they had several things to take into account; one being not having met with Broomes at the time, and therefore being unable to talk of separation having only heard one side. (TL)