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.
The wonderful sight of teacher and pupil reunited at the Alexandra School – Photo credit Barbados Advocate
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.
Karen Best, former BUT President and current Deputy Chief Education Officer
Minister Jones, visibly shaken and angry, termed the no-show a “gross insult” and the low point of industrial relations practice in the trade union history of Barbados. Mrs Karen Best, president of the Barbados Union of Teachers (BUT), reportedly said she had never seen anything like it in industrial relations. Her [Best] comments clearly indicate her union will not support the BSTU. For the first time that I can remember, there is a split among five unions – the BSTU and Barbados Workers Union (BWU) on one side, the BUT, BAPPSS and NUPW on the other
It seems to be finally hitting home to Barbadians – especially the political partisans – that the Alexandra School dispute (AX) is not so easy to resolve after all. The Frederick Waterman headed commission of inquiry was suppose to wash away the problem which all have to admit predates this government coming to office.
One view of the AX matter which BU has not put under full scrutiny is the incestuous nature of the relationships of key decision makers and participants in the AX plot. Barbados we know is a small country and there is an inevitability about how personal relationships can shape public perception about how decisions are taken.
Key players in the AX Mess are Principal Jeff Broomes, Minister Ronald Jones, and Deputy Chief Education Officer Karen Best who are ALL products of the Barbados Union of Teachers (BUT). To complete the BUT connection we should declare that current President of the Barbados Union of Teachers is Pedro Shepherd who recently challenged for the Democratic Labour Party’s (DLP) nomination in St. Michael South East.
Of special interest to BU is the recent appointment of Karen Best who has responsibility for schools.
‘Ingredients’ for a cabal you think? It gets better.
Prime Minister Fruendel Stuart continues to guard the date for the next general election
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.
Ronald Jordan reacts to his transfer to Alexandra – Image credit Nation
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.
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.
Chief Justice Marston Gibson
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.
As promised BU produces the letter in its original form which the BSTU sent to the Chief Education Officer arising from a ‘secret meeting’ under his chairmanship. It does not matter how anyone tries to interpret the letter, to any competent person (counsel), the threat and inference is crystal clear. If one compares what is stated in the last paragraph of the letter attached to what was reported in the Nation today, “BSTU first vice-president Erskine Padmore said again yesterday that his members would resume work as scheduled pending the findings of the Waterman Commission Of Inquiry, set up to look into affairs at The Alexandra School.” The BU family can draw one sensible conclusion.
Can anyone explain anyway why the Chief Education Officer Laurie King held a secret meeting with the BSTU immediately following the COI – at a cost of $600,000.00 – which was expressly established to to make the AX Mess a transparent affair? Let us forget about the decision by Commissioner Waterman to hold the COI summations of counsel in camera.
BU raises AGAIN the question of conflict of interest by Keith Simmons, a member of the Public Service Commission – employer of those employed at Alexandra School – and also the chairman of the management committee of Alexandra School. When it was suggested to him by counsel that he was in conflict of interest in holding both those posts, he replied that he was not and if a conflict arose, he would recuse himself from one or the other. Why can’t he see his roles as being improper and that by holding both posts and being privy to confidential information from both, he is in conflict of interest? What manner of lawyer is entitled to wear silk in Barbados again?
See letter sent to Chief Education Officer Parts 1,2
Laurie King, Chief Education Officer (l) Ronald Jones, Minister of Education (r)
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.
Commissioner Frederick Waterman – Photo Credit: Nation
The final arguments from lawyers representing all parties in the Alexandra School Dispute have been submitted and Barbadians await the report from lone Commissioner Frederick Waterman. It is obviously the report will be delivered before the September school term begins.
There was a sense by BU during the last two weeks of the Inquiry that it was hurried along; and for an obvious reason. The first school term is scheduled to begin on the 10 September 2012 and given known timelines the Waterman Report will be late. Therefore the 64k question is – what will be the next phase of the AX Affair?
It is early days yet to evaluate the performance of the Alexandra Commission. However, BU is concerned the Commissioner made some questionable decisions which will impact the quality of the final report. For example, it is understood from our sources that the aunt of Miss X whom we reported on another blog the student in the transcript affair was to go to live in the USA to facilitate school there, was in Barbados and prepared to give evidence. BU understands she was seized with interesting bits of information as a result of her visit to the school to which Miss X was to attend and where the transcript was allegedly sent by the secretary. Our source has advised that she had proof no such transcript was received by the US school. A reasonable conclusion to be made, the transcript was never sent. We have been reliably advised that Commissioner Waterman refused to allow this witness to be called.
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 Mahogany Coconut Think Tank/Watch Dog Group
Jeff Broomes, Principal of Alexandra School
From the very beginning, Mahogany Coconut had determined that Mr. Jeff Broomes should have been separated and or fired from the post of headmaster at the Alexandra School.
We need to root out professionals such as Broomes from all positions they hold in the public sector and quasi government organizations. They are the bad apples that rotten the whole barrel.
Everyday thousands of: teachers, firemen, policemen/women, sanitation workers, soil technicians, maids, parks and beaches workers and others, go to work and execute their tasks with great pride and gratitude.
However, we have hundreds of professionals such as Broomes, who with devilish accuracy, spend their time behaving like laws unto themselves, usually with the direct support of the decadent party system that now invades our beloved island state. These BLP/DLP yard fowls and assorted sycophants are bigger and deadlier threats to Barbados than any downgrade from Standard and Poor.
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.
The Alexandra School Commission of Inquiry continues to enjoy rap attention of Barbadians. In response to requests BU starts Part II of The Alexandra School Commission Of Inquiry to ensure commenters are not inconvenienced by the burgeoning comments.
The Parliament of Barbados voted today (24/07/2012) to allocate $598,000 to pay for the Inquiry.