Conflict of interest
By Barry Alleyne | Fri, July 13, 2012 - 12:05 AM
A serious conflict of interest has developed at the Alexandra School surrounding principal Jeff Broomes and his cousin Roger Broomes, a physical education teacher, the school’s chairman Keith Simmons told a commission of inquiry yesterday.
Simmons told the inquiry the situation was so serious that the board set up a subcommittee to investigate why the physical education teacher’s name kept coming up in disciplinary issues brought to the board’s attention.
According to Simmons, one such issue was the alleged sexual harassment of a female student by the temporary teacher and another was an alleged in-class confrontation between him and head of the physical education department, Sofia Ifill.
The chairman added there was a subsequent incident in which the principal and the child’s guardian were involved in a confrontation that started in the principal’s office and ended as a shouting match in the schoolyard.
Simmons informed the commission that the guardian wrote a letter to the board regarding what she considered the principal’s disrespectful behaviour when they met to discuss the child’s sexual harassment complaint. A letter regarding that matter was also copied to the Ministry of Education because of the seriousness of its contents.
Simmons was also quite peeved that the ministry did not respond to the letter written in September last year until after Prime Minister Freundel Stuart had become involved in the controversy boiling over at the school in January this year.
“This is the most serious matter engaging the school right now. There is a clear conflict of interest,” Simmons told the commission.
“I wrote the ministry about these incidents involving Mr [Roger] Broomes, indicating the principal did not seem to realize there was a conflict.”
“This is a serious, horrendous situation,” Simmons added.
“[The ministry] did not have the respect to acknowledge the letter. They didn’t show respect to the board, the parents or the students.”
According to Simmons, Roger Broomes first became an issue when a board member queried why his name always came up regarding disciplinary matters.
“A committee was set up to look into the matter and the principal was informed, but he wrote a letter questioning the authority of the board to investigate Roger Broomes. [The principal] again maintained the board was attempting to intervene in the day to day running of the school,” Simmons testified.
The witness added that in the same letter from the principal, he informed the board a complete investigation had been conducted regarding the complaint made by Sofia Ifill about Roger Broomes’ behaviour towards her.
“He refused to meet with the committee,” Simmons revealed, indicating that the board only became aware of the issue after Ifill had written to them about it, and not the principal.
According to Simmons, he was very concerned about the issues surrounding the principal’s cousin.
“At a board meeting, the principal said ‘He is my cousin, and as long as I’m working here, he will work here’.”
The chairman said he ignored such outbursts from the principal, since he had become accustomed to Broomes’ behaviour during board meetings.
Simmons noted that at another board meeting, Broomes said that he would not leave Alexandra, not even if he was paid to do so.
“He said, ‘If you offer me a million dollars, I ain’t leaving this school’.”
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