The recent squabble at Queens College between the teachers on one side and the Chairman of the Board of Governors and the Ministry of Education on the other was not only unsavoury and messy but sent a very warped notion of what order, fairness and justice are all about to the student body. That student body represents the crème de la crème of our youths–the group of individuals out of which, if history is any guide, many of our future leaders will arise.
If such a state of affairs could be precipitated in our premier high school, it does not lend much credence to claims by the Ministry of Education that the reforms instituted recently in the administration of our schools are working. Even though we understand that the brouhaha has been “resolved”, we need to have an inquiry conducted to discover and analyse what exactly transpired so that appropriate corrective actions or changes in the regulations can be taken if necessary.
The matters that have been reported in the media are as follows. The regulations of the Ministry of Education stipulate that while teachers may be rehired after retirement-a program, which, as a matter of fact is being intensified, – that teacher cannot be assigned to duties other than simply teaching. Meaning that even if the rehired teacher was a “Head of Department” or a “Deputy Principal”, they cannot hold such positions in their new tenure. This rule, of course, was intended to allow younger but yet qualified members of the profession to move up the ranks. Has this regulation been changed?
The second pertinent regulation was that a retiring teacher desirous of being rehired would first have to apply to the Head teacher, who would then, if the school has a vacancy would submit the application to the Board (if there is one) which would further it to the Ministry (in the case of Georgetown) or the appropriate REO. Evidently, the retiring Deputy Principal (DP) of Queens desired to return to Queens but bypassed the Headmistress, who had in any case verbally recommended to the Board Chairman that she be rehired as a Part-time Teacher. The most senior teacher in the meantime was appointed DP.
The Board took it upon itself to recommend the former DP to the Minister of Education as a full time teacher which differed from the Headmistress’ recommendation. Then quite disconcertingly, the Minister not only accepted the recommendation but advised his PS to have the former DP be appointed as “Temporary Deputy Principal”. This was a position never heard of before in the profession and of course, violated the regulations.
At the valedictory ceremony to honour the retiring former DP, the Chairman of the Board dropped the bombshell appointment to the assembled students, staff and invited guests. The staff, including the senior teacher acting as DP, was perplexed to say the least. What was even more perplexing was the Chairman’s seeming challenge that those not in agreement with the decision could “challenge” it.
And the staff did challenge it. They staged a “sit-in” that left most of the students – including those preparing for the upcoming exams – bereft of tuition for almost a week. It is reported that another source of frustration to the staff that precipitated their action was the fact that the matter had never been “discussed” with them. But this is immaterial: they could not have conferred legitimacy to an act that was not sanctioned by the regulations.
The two points that must be clarified is firstly, who pushed for and advised the Minister to make an appointment violative of the regulations? And secondly, why did the Board over-ride the Principal’s specific recommendation on the retired DP? The administration has performed yeoman service in its attempts to stabilize and revitalise our teaching profession. It cannot afford to allow the clumsy intervention of one Board or its Chairman to undo all its hard labour.
In the instant case of the Queens College sit-in, the powers that be have suggested to our budding leaders that the rules can be subverted for some sacred cows. This cannot stand.
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