The media report that headmaster of St. Bernard’s Primary School Everton Briggs has entered the race for president of the Barbados Union of Teachers (BUT) is not news that should ordinarily create alarm in the public space. Across the Caribbean principals are routinely elected to the executive of school unions.
Today’s press report refers to Briggs’ possible conflict of interest because he served on the BUT executive when Karen Best was president, currently the Chief Education Officer. There is mention that Briggs’ appointment at St Bernard’s Primary School came after Best was in the role of Chief Education Officer. Note that Karen Best was a principal and president of the BUT.
There is enough grist in the report to pique the curiosity of fair minded citizens as to why Briggs wants to throw his hat in the ring at this time- as is his right. If one accepts how the BUT is designed to operate, the executive directs (or should) direct the workings of the BUT. If Briggs deviates then BUT’s Constitution its allow for the membership to deal with ultra vires behaviour by bringing a vote of no confidence. However, the reality of how associations in Barbados operate is another matter and how it commingles with a passive and politically polarized membership is a factor not to be underestimated. These associations are usually heavily influenced by the traits of the leader.
The blogmaster for the last ten years has sided with those who calling for civic minded Barbadians who serve the public to exercise a high level of probity. There is nothing wrong with Briggs being ambitious, the BUT membership will have to decide!
If we engage in a back of the envelope historical analysis of the rise of Ronald Jones from BUT president to that of minister of education and the appointment of Karen Best, also a former BUT president to Chief Education Officer under his watch. There is enough to inform a perspective that the position of BUT president is seen and have been used as a vehicle for political- in its general definition- advancement. We should be aware of how interlocking relationships can breed incestuous and unprofessional behaviour.
The blogmaster does not have evidence to ascribe political or less than honourable motives to Briggs, however, in recent years across the union leadership it is obvious there has been clear evidence of external influence. We encourage individuals to step forward to serve but there is also a need to ensure citizens are eternally vigilant and hold feet to the fire when merited.
The government of Barbados has been quick to issue the order to dock the pay of teachers who responded to the call from the Barbados Union of Teachers (BUT) to attend meetings during school hours between April 29 and May 4, 2016. The ministry of education has pointed to Section: 3.3.2 of the General Orders to support their decision. It will be interesting to observe the response by the BUT for several reasons. Are the former presidents Jones and Best of the BUT uncomfortable in the role?
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.