Transfer them!Abina Williams testifying at yesterday’s hearing of the commission of inquiry into the Alexandra School industrial dispute. (Picture by Lennox Devonish.)
By Ricky Jordan | Wed, August 08, 2012 - 12:05 AM
Separation is not the best option for Alexandra Secondary School, and teachers who feel uncomfortable working there should seek transfers.
This is the view of young award-winning English teacher Abina Williams who told the commision of inquiry into Alexandra’s industrial dispute that the only thing that might work, besides shock therapy, is for someone to be placed on the compound to ensure the human relations aspect of the Speightstown institution worked.
Speaking on Day 22 of the inquiry at the Gymnasium of the Garfield Sobers Sports Complex yesterday, Williams said a transfer option should be made available to anyone who couldn’t fall in line.
“Those who can’t see themselves in the environment should have taken the option of moving. It may seem easier with one person being separated, but removing the principal is not going to heal that tension . . . I can’t see anyone, including [principal Jeff] Broomes, unifying the staff. There will not be an easy way back,” she said while being questioned all day by attorneys Michael Yarde, Hal Gollop and Vernon Weekes QC, and Cecil McCarthy, QC.
She recalled that so tense was the situation before and after the January strike that sometimes the principal had to literally beg teachers to give him a hearing at staff meetings.
“Staff meetings were tense and stressful, and the principal often needed to ask staff to be silent . . . the older members of staff. They tried to dispute everything he said for the sake of doing so. Their tone was aggressive,” she said, adding that Broomes would at times give up or raise his voice.
“I dreaded going into those meetings,” Williams told the commission, chaired by retired judge Frederick Waterman.
She also recalled deputy principal Beverley Lashley’s behaviour at those staff meetings, noting that even though Lashley sat beside the principal who chaired the meeting, her facial expressions “said a lot”.
Throughout some meetings, Williams said, Lashley would push up her lips, roll her eyes and very rarely contribute.
“I don’t know why she does it,” said Williams, further recalling one instance after the January strike “when a note was being passed around for everyone to laugh at”.
“I remember her cackling and saying she couldn’t believe Broomes had set this up,” Williams added, describing the deputy as “emotionless” and lacking in warmth.
Citing other instances of disrespect toward the principal, Williams said there was a habit of teachers making fun of things which Broomes placed on the notice board, including one related to the Easter academy under which someone wrote in red ink “bare junk”.
Williams, who has been at Alexandra for six years, opined that the school was filled with potential and could be one of the best in the educational system under Broomes, but some teachers, particular old scholars who had been teaching there for decades, didn’t share that view.
She said they not only resisted change but tended to compare Broomes with previous principals, thereby filling the environment with “too much negative energy for Alexandra to move forward positively”.
Stating that tradition was important, the young teacher argued there could be too much tradition and there was therefore a need to bring fresh ideas. She also dismissed the view that Broomes had tried to make Alexandra “a one-man show”.
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