The Alexandra Commission of Inquiry headed by retired Justice Frederick Waterman was established by the Prime Minister as a means to resolve the long running conflict between former principal Jeff Broomes and the Barbados Secondary Teachers Union (BSTU). The Ministry of Education at the conclusion of the Inquiry transferred 18 teachers AND Jeff Broomes who was appointed principal of Parkinson School. Less than two years later Uncle Jeff is at the centre of another dispute at his latest school. It is too early for the fair minded to take sides even if the protagonists are the same.
Submitted by Yardbroom
In arriving at a just determination, when a plethora of evidence must be examined by a properly constituted tribunal, it is often best to decide first on what can be agreed on. In the Alexandra issue it is agreed – or appears – that the problems there started before the term of this DLP Government. However, when elected to government problems should be solved which you inherited, that is the nature of being elected to govern. So the problems despite their history must be solved by this administration.
In the first instance Prime Minister Freundel Stuart stood back and was criticised for so doing. With a cabinet consisting of Ministers with portfolios in charge of respective departments, they are expected to discharge their responsibilities. A Prime Minister should not be seen as a dictator, he must allow his ministers an opportunity to make decisions. When the problem of Alexandra appeared intractable the Prime Minister agreed to meet with BSTU and if the speech made by them after the meeting is to be believed, they were listened to. In politics being cordially welcomed and politely listened to does not always mean an agreement with your stated position.
The Prime Minister decided having listened to the complex issues involved, to go the route of a Commission Of Inquiry. Here (On BU) there was “some” disagreement with this course of action. However, this decision gave the electorate to whom the Government is ultimately responsible an opportunity to learn first hand of the issues involved and form an impression – on the plausibility of evidence – of the major players giving evidence before the Commission.
Why is Alexandra important?
He who knows that enough is enough will always have enough – Lao Tzu
Gross Domestic Product (GDP) is defined as all “the final goods and services produced within a country in a given period of time”. Can BU draw a parallel and define the well being of a country by the quality of key decisions made by the ‘leaders’ in a given period?
The debate which continues to gain traction in Barbados is about the Alexandra dispute and related issues. It has displaced discussion about the upcoming general election, and significantly, a conversation about the state of the economy. If one were to ask any educated Barbadian what issue should be occupying the attention of the country, the answer should be ‘managing the economy’. It does not mean that all the issues at play in the country should be ignored, just that the exigencies of now require priority planning how we allocate resources.
Tension at the Alexandra School has peaked and troughed since 2005, surely an indictment on the management system with oversight for education. Many problems currently being wrestled by the government have straddled both political parties and different personnel in the public service. What it exposes is a rotten core which drives decision making in Barbados.
Submitted by Old Onions Bags
To say one could not have seen it coming is an obvious understatement. So why now all the parlance?
A dinner table well set for disaster. The Alexandra farce we mean. To say this was unexpected is far from the truth. Talk about a blind manhorse trotting backwards…How could one be so daft to expect that two diametrically opposed individuals (as hostile as they were in 2012) be all a sudden in 2013, like New Year’s Babes, ..forgetful and forgiving, accepting any and all change? Would never happen. To have thought otherwise is an obvious exercise in folly. Now the present …..badly handled and far from a Simple Song.
The supposed conclusion to the long-running Alexandra debacle appears to have caused more problems than it would have solved. Some might argue, and I am tempted to agree, that the resolution imposed by the Public Service Commission (PSC) has solved nothing. It would appear that the PSC attempted to settle the internecine warfare that was being waged for years by awarding neither side a victory.
The cowardly solution has resulted in over twenty teachers, including all but one of Alexandra’s management team, being transferred and scattered throughout the Teaching Service. It has proven to be unpopular with a majority of those involved in this unsightly mess. Also, it would appear that the PSC did not consider or paid blatant disregard to the harm their actions would be inflicting on the students who are about to take examinations. The teachers will get over the effects of the transfers with time; but the harm inflicted on the children is potentially devastating on those 4th, 5th and 6th form students whose future could very well be affected.
The harm to the education system and the children aside, the justice system in this country could be irreparably damaged by the fallout from the ill-advised actions of the PSC. The Waterman Commission made recommendations for limited transfers, but unfortunately, the PSC went overboard and transferred/punished most, if not all, of the teachers that appeared before the commission of inquiry as witnesses.
Submitted by Yardbroom
I wonder how many of those teachers, who assiduously canvassed for the Head to be “separated” from the school, thought that they too would be separated, and if they did, why did they fight with such alacrity [eagerness]?…I have only posed a question.
The general idea from the present Government’s perspective was to solve a major problem and this up to a point they have done. The main players are no longer at the school, the school has an opportunity to do what it is mandated to do…teach children and thus move on.
Many of the major participants will never be the force they once were and some at the end of careers, will be remembered for things they would rather forget.
First they came for the Communists, but I was not a Communist so I did not speak out. Then they came for the Socialists and the Trade Unionists, but I was neither, so I did not speak out. Then they came for the Jews, but I was not a Jew so I did not speak out. And when they came for me, there was no one left to speak out for me – Pastor Martin Niemoeller
They have come for Jeff Broomes, and as a trade unionist, I must speak out before they come for me. From the outset, let me state that I am not defending Broomes because I think that he is guiltless. In Barbados, everyone, even Jeff Broomes, is innocent until he pleads guilty or guilt is established after a duly constituted body makes that determination after hearing the evidence, and giving the accused the right to be heard. I am therefore concerned that the Public Service Commission (PSC) has taken steps against him, under the guise of a transfer, before it follows the rules in order to establish his guilt or innocence.
The Barbados Secondary Teachers Union (BSTU) has achieved its goal of separating the Principal from Alexandra School; but they have nothing to rejoice about when you consider the way it was done. I hope that the membership of the union is sensible enough to condemn the method that was adopted by the PSC. BSTU should vociferously disassociate itself from the denial of due process to Mr. Broomes. Even murderers who kill in front of witnesses are given the right to be heard before sentence is pronounced. In essence, he has fewer rights than a murderer.
After the phone hacking scandal which occurred in July 2011, the UK government commissioned a 2-part Inquiry to be headed by Lord Justice Leveson. The Inquiry was given a remit to “make recommendations on the future of press regulation and governance consistent with maintaining freedom of the press and ensuring the highest ethical and professional standards.” After nearly 1-year of investigating Lord Leveson’s report was published today.
The recommendations of the Leveson report will have implications for how the global media manages its affairs. BU notes that the role of blogs was covered in the report. BU also notes that the report which was made public today is widely accessible on the Internet. The same CANNOT be stated about the government of Barbados which has laid the Alexandra Report in the House of Assembly BUT still the document remains elusive to taxpayers.
- The Leveson Report (Executive Summary)
- The Leveson Report (Full Version)
Since writing the following article, it is reported in the Nation News that the Barbados Bar Association is contemplating strike action against the Supreme Court in general and the Chief Justice in particular. BU wishes to make it clear that the following report was written without knowledge of the position of the Barbados Bar Association and before the Nation report was published. BU extends its full support to the Barbados Bar Association in this instance and, depending upon circumstances, will revisit its comment that the Barbados Bar Association is toothless in due course.
The question we now have to address is this. AFTER A YEAR IN OFFICE, WHAT HAS THE CHIEF JUSTICE DONE?
The answer is, in sincere and flattering imitation of Freundel Stuart (the attorney-general who agreed to his appointment and the prime minister who changed the law so that no meritless challenges could be made to that appointment) the Chief Justice has done NOTHING. Except talk a lot.
The Chief Justice has talked about arbitration and ADR. Boy has he talked it to death. But yet we see no mechanism in place to make this (in appropriate circumstances) mandatory or even viable. Nor do we see a system of qualification for court-approved arbitrators, which basically means that any member of the Bar can be an arbitrator. A situation hardly likely to inspire confidence and cooperation in a public fed up with a toothless Bar Association and a disciplinary committee of same that allows attorneys to rip the public off left right and centre, without disbarring their tails.
So, apart from talking about ADR, the Chief Justice has done ABSOLUTELY NOTHING to implement it. And absent any clear guidelines, the general public (which is not stupid) has realised that it is a haunt for cowboys and is keeping well away.
Mona Robinson, the general secretary of the BSTU wrote to the Chief Education Officer, Mr King, by letter dated Sunday 02 September 2012. The letter was received 03 September 2012. The subject of the letter purports to be in order to clarify matters relating to Alexandra School.
BU notes that this letter was copied to the Permanent Secretary in the MoE, among others. BU also notes with considerable surprise that the letter is NOT copied to BSTU’s counsel, Mr Hal Gollop. May we therefore infer that BSTU has written and sent this letter without having taken competent legal advice?
Ms Robinson, referencing comments made by Mr King on 31 August 2012 states that there are no assurances given in respect of comments on Jeff Broomes and demands that BSTU be supplied with answers in writing to the list of 10 points.
These points include, but are not limited to:
On August 25, 2012 BU family member, the venerable Yardbroom, a posted the following comment:
“Reports are that Mr. Vernon Smith QC “RECALLED” Alexandra’s Deputy Principal Beverley Neblett-Lashley and Former Secretary Merlene Sealey to give evidence again before the COI. It is alleged after which “Smith, who questioned the deputy Principal and former secretary, then submitted that there was no evidence before the Commission proving that the allegations against Broomes were true.”
Do you know what questions were asked of them and what their responses were?”
BU tapped its legal resources for an answer and the following is what has been reported to us.
A little story reported by the Nation newspaper on August 15, 2012 under the headline ‘Cellphone mystery’ has not generated the public debate BU expected. The gist of the story is that several calls originating from the cellphone of Jeff Broomes, principal of Alexandra School, terminated on the phone of Hal Gollop, attorney-at-law for the Barbados Secondary Teachers’ Union (BSTU) last weekend. Both Broomes and Gollop are reported to be ‘mystified’ by what BU agrees was a very unusual occurrence.
Barbadians boast of a healthy Internet and mobile phone penetration which compares favourably to developed countries (In this regard we may accurately boast of attaining first world status). What is evident is that Barbadians have not demonstrated even cursory interest in the ‘backend’ which supports how information is managed by telecommunications companies in Barbados. What are the security protocols managed by LIME, Digicel, Telebarbados and others? To what degree is privacy of information respected and guaranteed? So many question can be asked but in Barbados we can be assured answers will not be easily forthcoming.
Remember Barbados is a country which boasts of being highly educated with a telecommunications infrastructure described as one of the best in this hemisphere.
The crisis at Alexandra School, being played out before the nation, is but a reflection of the generally meltdown in education in Barbados. Although the Inquiry itself may be the public humiliation of a man, his stubbornness and the notorious Barbadian culture of spite and vindictiveness, the message it sends to the rest of the world is not a very nice one.
There are two broad reasons for this symptom of decline: first, the authorities have failed to make education as attractive professionally as law or medicine and, therefore, have not seen it necessary to spend a reasonable share of GDP on education, nor to attract the best graduates, because they do not appreciate its central importance in the future development of the nation.
Second, there is a traditional policy of promoting the longest serving and best connected person, rather than the most competent and best able. We must skip a generation in order to professionalise teaching. Following on from this is a lack of proper training provisions for teachers at all grades, and especially head teachers, who are not only the senior teachers in schools, but also the chief executive of the enterprise.
Submitted by Old Onions Bag
Experience is the name everyone gives to their mistakes – Oscar Wilde
Without a doubt, one must admit, Barbados has seen its share of problems during these last four and a half years. Bajans though accustomed, have had it up to here with all these mistakes.
By now, everyone would have felt that seeing this administration is nearing the end of term, surely by now, they should be getting things right. WRONG….Blunder after blunder as of if playing school boy tonk with a village bully, Bajans seem to be getting the shitty end of the stick….not those who are making these mistakes. Take for instance the latest, The Waterman Inquiry…genius at work or another blunder bomber? $598,000 at first draw-down, weeks after we were informed in an unforgiving misery Budget, to cut and contrive.
Why how could this be? Why was there not the King’s Report which from all indicators, travelled the same route, and more likely than not, destined to produce a same conclusion about the school? How do we explain the extravagance, when we have told destitute storm victims of Tomas, who are still without a roof over their heads, to hold strain? Why is it some new game? The re-hiring of a dismissed doctor to that of secretary to the Inquiry only to have a lissom share in the divide? No one even bothered to cover up the extent of the consanguineous fandango.
According to media reports, the meeting between Prime Minister Fruendel Stuart and the Barbados Secondary Teachers Union (BSTU) to resolve the Alexandra imbroglio ended with a promise of more meetings late last night. Further reports suggest that Principal Jeff Broomes did not receive ‘official’ communication from the ministry of education about the meeting.
After four and one half hours at Bay Street yesterday the only reasonable conclusion to be drawn by John Public is that the 30 teachers remain persuaded by the Prime Minister that dialogue is healthy in the circumstances. Whether the reason for the impasse is legitimate or not most Barbadians have become ‘ticked-off’ at how protracted this matter has become. In any industrial dispute there is a time period which is considered reasonable before the hammer drops. Clearly in the Alexandra matter that time has long passed.
Although it is easy to be sympathetic to Prime Minister Stuart given the large number of issues which currently command his attention, the Alexandra dispute involves children, and despite the placatory offerings from some involved in solving the matter, it must be adversely affecting them. Listening to many parents of the affected children it must be a very emotional time especially if we factor the challenging economic times we have to exist.