Only time will tell
Sat, July 21, 2012 - 12:00 AM
WE HAVE ALREADY HEARD ENOUGH!
After just three weeks of testimony, it is fair and reasonable to conclude that an untenable situation now exists at the Alexandra School in St Peter.
But then again, we knew that even before the Frederick Waterman Commission of Inquiry got going.
While we may never know the full extent of the problem, it has been clear for several months now that the relationship between some teachers at the St Peter school and principal Jeff Broomes has broken down.
Less obvious was the breakdown in trust and communication between the principal and the Ministry of Education, and the principal and the Keith Simmons-led board of management.
Add to that the charges and countercharges of abuse, nepotism, financial impropriety and the like.
It is hard to understand how such could be tolerated, much less allowed to persist right under the noses of the education officials, who now have as much of a case to answer as any for this unacceptably sordid mess.
In the three weeks that sessions have been held at the Garfield Sobers Sports Complex, Waterman has heard numerous witnesses hedge when attempting to properly explain the difference in function of the board and the principal, in keeping with the Education Act and its regulations.
This could prove to be the commissioner’s main focus. And there is a chance that Barbadians may see an eventual amendment to the Act, making clear the separation of powers.
Senior attorney Vernon Smith, QC, who represents principal Broomes, has expressed his dissatisfaction with the vague interpretation of the Act, which he contends does not clearly demarcate the lines of supervision between the board and principal.
Hal Gollop, who represents the Barbados Secondary Teachers’ Union, has said the board of management, as the entity which receives policy direction from the minister, is fully responsible for the overall management of the institution while Broomes is subordinate to the board.
However, no one at the inquiry seems to think the Act explicitly explains who is in charge and what their exact duties are.
This inquiry is eerily similar to the last one held into the causes of the riot at Glendairy Prisons in 2005.
Back then, the Superintendent of Prisons, Lieutenant Colonel John Nurse was the man in the hot seat and, just like Broomes, had come in for some heavy criticism from witnesses, which some thought would permanently tarnish his reputation and lead to his separation from the penal institution.
However, when his turn came to take the stand, Nurse was able to diffuse a lot of the sensational evidence.
Broomes will no doubt get an opportunity to do the same.
But at the end of the day, will he remain unmoved like the colonel?
Time will tell!
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