What wrong have I done?
By YVETTE BEST | Sun, January 27, 2013 - 12:07 AM
“FIRE ME, but don’t leave me out there in the dark like the man with the iron mask. It ain’t right!”
That’s the cry of a man who, by virtue of a letter of appointment and a monthly salary, is gainfully employed, but who has not driven a stroke in his substantive position for almost six years.
Bradston Clarke, deputy principal of St Leonard’s Boys’ School, checked his bank last Thursday, like all public servants do, for his $7 000-plus salary, and it was there. But there was nothing to smile about.
Clarke was interdicted and sent home from school on March 19, 2007 on half-pay leave and is still searching for answers.
“When they sent me home they said it was on an alleged misconduct and I was home as a deputy principal for a whole year not knowing what this misconduct was,” he told the SUNDAY SUN.
According to him, he learnt of the nature of the three charges brought against him when he took the matter to court.
One was reportedly a bomb scare that he had done nothing about. It was also said that he had watched ten boys beat one boy. There was also a fracas at the school which caused more than 40 police officers to go to the institution to deal with it.
A 2011 judgment returned his salary to full and he was back-paid the portion which had been deducted from 2007.
“I am not permitted to work, because the matter has not been resolved . . . . You [are] getting paid and you don’t have to work, not because you’re sicking out but because the people are just ignoring you. So they [the Public Service Commission] have ignored me for the last couple years. It’s as though I don’t exist,” Clarke complained.
Following the 2011 judgment, he got a letter from Personnel Administration informing him, among other things, that the then Deputy Chief Education Officer Laurie King had been asked to continue the investigation into his case and would be contacting him. Up until the time of this interview last week King had not yet done so, Clarke insisted.
“. . . Nobody seems to be interested in my well-being,” Clarke said.
“I’m a citizen of Barbados [and] in a little while I’ll be asked to vote, but I can’t work. I can’t leave here [home] and go to work. However, I get paid in a statutory position.”
He said he was “kicked” off his job after six people came to his office. According to him, they were then Permanent Secretary Athlene Haynes and her deputy, Chief Education Officer Wendy Griffith-Watson, deputy chiefs Idamay Denny and Glenroy Cumberbatch, and the then chairman of the school board. He said he was handed a letter saying he was being interdicted from March 20.
He said he pointed out to them that it was a day early, but later learnt from the Official Gazette that his principal Victor Jackman had officially retired on that same day.
“When I queried around, in preparing my case, I realised that they had to get me out of there by 11:30/12 o’clock on the 19th, which was a day early . . . . Had I spent a day there, I would have been acting principal, because the position of principal was vacant. So they had to get me out because they did not want me in that position at all,” Clarke contended.
He was 52 at the time and is now approaching 59, and given the talk circulating about sending home the embattled Jeff Broomes who was at the centre of the Alexandra School affair, Clarke said the same could be said about him.
“Somebody would look at me and say, I too old now, you could send me home. But you sent me home at 52,” Clarke charged.
He continues to query why he was “put out to pasture” at 52, and the authorities cannot come out and tell the public what he has done wrong.
“Tell me, tell my children, tell my wife what I did wrong so I could defend myself,” he said, adding his representative, the Barbados Union of Teachers (BUT), had “abandoned” him with all the others.
He said he could not go out and find another job in the Public Service, because he was being paid for a job.
“Shoving money at me doesn’t make me get up on mornings and go and do what I’m qualified and able and anxious to do. I see things happening in the service, I see ways of teaching that are not being done. I see problems that are easily solved, but I can’t go and do them; those are things that are well within my purview. Fire me . . . . Even if you do me like Jeff Broomes, transfer me, do something, but don’t leave it,” he suggested.
Clarke said that for some reason he had been “thrown out and forgotten”.
“Some day before I die, I would like to know what I did that would cause me not to be able to work in this country. You can’t even get a proper accusation,” he charged.
So how does he spend his days?
Apart from doing some work on the computer so he “won’t go insane”, Clarke takes his three-year-old grandson Caleb to and from school.
He said Caleb, whom he looked after for three months before nursery, has been a “boost” and the “light” of his life.
He said there had been no major adverse effects on his health over the years he has been out of work, and that he had put his life in God’s hands.
“My main thing is my faith in God and seeing the support of my family. Those are the things that have kept me,” he said, as he insisted he had no bitterness over the affair.
When contacted for a response, Minister of Education Ronald Jones said he could not comment, since the Clarke issue was a personnel matter and outside of his domain. Efforts to reach Chief Education Officer Laurie King were unsuccessful
New president of the BUT, Pedro Shepherd, said he believed the union took a step back from the situation when the case went to court. He said they would be willing to give Clarke an ear and reopen the file if he so desired, however.
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