Tag Archives: Alexandra School

To Alexandra and Back: A DEFINING MOMENT For the DLP Government?

Submitted by Yardbroom
Prime Minister Freundel Stuart

Prime Minister Freundel Stuart

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?

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Alexandra School Dispute: Remembering the Children

The wonderful sight of teacher and pupil reunited at the Alexandra School - Photo credit Barbados Advocate

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 enoughLao 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.

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The Alexandra Incestuous Factor

Karen Best, former BUT President and current Deputy Chief Education Officer

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

- Nation Newspaper

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.

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Jousting With the Inevitable

Submitted by Old Onions Bags
Prime Minister Fruendel Stuart continues to guard the date for the next general election

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.

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Poor Judgment by Public Service Commission

Caswell Franklyn, Head of Unity Workers Union

Caswell Franklyn, Head of Unity Workers Union

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.

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Alexandra School: "Separation" and Sacrifice

Submitted by Yardbroom
Ronald Jordan reacts to his transfer to Alexandra - Image credit - Nation

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.

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Alexandra Solution or Confusion?

Caswell Franklyn, Head of Unity Workers Union

Caswell Franklyn, Head of Unity Workers Union

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.

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Tales From The Courts Part VI – Chief Justice Marston Gibson Scores An F In Year One

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.

Relevant links:

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Ministry of Education Summons BSTU To Hastily Arranged Meeting Which Provoked ‘The Letter’

Laurie King, Chief Education Officer

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

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UPDATE On Alexandra School Matter – Strike Action LOOMS!

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.

These points include, but are not limited to:

Read full report

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