Waterman findings into Alexandra

CAROL MARTINDALE, carolmartindale@nationnews.com

Added 20 November 2012


Following are the findings of Commissioner Frederick Waterman into the Alexandra School, which formed part of his official report laid in the House of Assembly today. *From the evidence given, the Commission found that one of the main causes leading to the breakdown of relations between the Principal and the teachers was the establishment of a level of factionalism among the teachers that saw a divide between the older members of the staff and the younger members, with the young members believing that because of their affiliation with the Principal they were above reproach and could not be held accountable for any infraction on their part. * The evidence showed that some of these younger members of staff were temporary, were vulnerable and very intimidated by the Principal. There were some who were appointed with no reference to the Heads of Department. Some were brought in after the Principal had held out for as long as nine weeks in one instance, to make sure that he got a specific teacher whom he wanted, while classes went untaught in that area of study. *The Commission found that another reason for the breakdown in the relationship between the Principal and the teachers was the Principal's treatment of the members of the BSTU and the BSTU itself. In his evidence, the Principal had no difficulty in admitting that he no longer reads any correspondence coming into his office from the BSTU. Surely this cannot be a wise decision taken by the Principal when one considers that the BSTU represents over 60 per cent of the staff of the School. It is my view that the Principal himself a unionist of long standing, must take cognizance of, and pay due respect to the BSTU, the teachers’ representative. The Commission observed that over the course of his ten years at the School, the Principal had so incensed the BSTU and its embers that three strikes were called against him. * The Commission found that another matter that caused serious concern at the school is the most unsatisfactory relationship that was allowed to develop between the Principal and his Deputy Principal. The attitude of the Principal towards the Deputy Principal was seen from day one. Page 1 of his written statement to the Commission is instructive and reads as follows: "My appointment as principal was met with immediate resistance and conflict. Many felt, and actually said to me that I had taken away the job that belonged to Mrs. Neblett- Lashley, an old scholar who had served as Deputy Principal for at least five years and was seen as the virtual heir apparent. This was underscored by my transformational style of leadership as well as my focus that spoke first and foremost to student interest. The Deputy Principal immediately took a term's leave thereby denying me the link that should have existed during my transitional period...” *From the evidence, the Commission found that many teachers at the School have been affected by bullying and workplace abuse at the hands of the Principal. Some of the earliest persons to suffer include Julian Bowen and Celina Roach both of whom, as temporary teachers, did not have their contracts renewed for reasons totally unrelated to their quality of work or professional performance at the School. *Further the Commission found that there was an attempt by the Principal to bully Celina Roach and Amaida Greaves into changing the SBA marks for some of their Biology and Chemistry students respectively, even though there was undisputed evidence that the students had cheated. They both refused but Mrs Roach was a temporary teacher and so, when she refused, the Principal elected to write an unsatisfactory report on her, further threatening her that if she did not sign it she could not report to the staff meeting at the beginning of the new school year. She was shocked at seeing some of its contents and in the absence of being granted a copy she refused to sign it the. Later he refused to allow her to sign it and told her that he was not recommending her reassignment to the School. The BSTU had to fight the case at the level of the Ministry. *There was evidence before the Commission, which the Commission accepts, that the Principal shouts at the teachers, engages in demeaning and belittling behaviour towards them in the sight and hearing of students, parents and their colleagues, for example, shouting at Margo Clarke in front of Gail Streat-Jules and Victor Johnson when the Principal told Mrs Clarke to “get out of my office, don't put a foot in here. Don't come in here". In the case of Mrs. Gail Streat-Jules, the Principal shouted at her in front of a parent and said that she should "leave my office, I cannot deal with you now". *Evidence was also given that the Principal manipulated the students. His approach to discipline has been very lax and he has delegated much responsibility for discipline matters to the Deputy Principal. In this way she becomes the bad one and the students see him as their 'friend' who cares for them and does not punish them, their 'Uncle Jeff who they can 'high five' in the schoolyard even in the presence of the Chairman of the Board Professor Velma Newton. *Before concluding my discussion on this particular term of reference, the Commission wishes to state that even though (as in this case) it has identified the Principal's December 2nd 2011 Speech Day remarks as the single cause which may be said to have triggered industrial action, the Commission is also satisfied that the breakdown in the relationship between the Principal and the teachers of the Alexandra School cannot be attributed to a single cause. *The evidence which the Commission heard over the eight weeks of hearings has pointed to a complete breakdown in trust between the Principal and the teachers of the school resulting from a combination of events and circumstances dating back many years . *The Commission wholeheartedly endorses the findings of the 2011 Inspection Report which found that professional co-existence at the Alexandra School was almost impossible in the present atmosphere at the school, where the various divisions have taken seemingly immovable positions. *The Commission is also convinced that if co-existence was thought to be a difficult proposition two years ago at the time of the Inspection Report in 2010, the subsequent Speech Day impasse, coupled with the further hardening of positions which has inevitably resulted from the very public nature of these proceedings, have rendered professional co-existence in the future well neigh impossible. *The Commission found that difficulties between Principal Broomes and the Board were not restricted to the current Board of Management and had been a recurring theme in the testimony of virtually all of the witnesses who gave evidence before the Commission relevant to the term of reference now under consideration. Ultimately, it was not difficult for the Commission to  conclude that Principal Broomes is the common denominator associated with much of the unsatisfactory working relationship between the Principal and all the Boards of Management of the Alexandra School from as early as the year 2005. *The Commission took the view that even if it were to accept the Principal's allegations of overreach against the current Board Chairman, the overwhelming evidence before the Commission is that the Principal's confrontational attitude and approach had played a significant role in actuating the breakdown. Additionally, the Commission accepted that the Principal had not displayed an adequate amount of patience or tolerance nor spoken to the Board in a tone or manner conducive to the type of symbiotic relationship that is supposed to exist between a Principal and a Board. *The Commission is satisfied that the evidence points strongly to the unwillingness, or even to the inability of the Ministry of Education (as presently structured) to proactively and decisively respond in a timely manner to the numerous problems and the disharmony which had become evident at the Alexandra School from as early as within months of the Principal's arrival. *The Commission found it astounding that even though the Inspection Report presented to the Chief Education Officer in April, 2011 had clearly highlighted problems, inter alia, between the Principal and the current Board and had recommended the urgent need to find some mechanisms and strategies to heal the rifts that were militating against the continued development of the school, the Ministry of Education is yet to act on its recommendations. *There is quite clearly no love lost between the Principal and the Deputy Principal. She, for the most part, felt that she was harassed, mentally abused, disrespected and humiliated by the Principal. The Commission accepts and shares her feelings in this regard. *In conclusion, the Commission finds that the manner in which the Deputy Principal of the Alexandra School, Mrs. Beverley Neblett-Lashley performed her duties at the school was in accordance with the provisions of regulation 19 of the Education Regulations, 1982 and that she has not contravened any of the terms of the said Regulations. *Regrettably as clearly appears from the foregoing Chapters, the Commission has found that the weight of the evidence points overwhelmingly to the conclusion that the relationship between Principal Broomes and the majority of the staff at the Alexandra School is now completely beyond repair.  *From the evidence led the Commission finds that if harmonious relations are to be restored then there must be a radical re-organization of the major players at the Alexandra School beginning at the very top with the Principal. *The Principal- Mr Jeffrey Broomes The Commission is in no doubt, based on the evidence, that the current Principal, driven by a crusading zeal and misguided notions of his personal "transformational management style", arrived at the Alexandra School in 2002 with a personal mandate to reform the school. By his arrogance, his heavy-handed manner in dealing with the staff, his autocratic management style, Mr Broomes, single-handedly alienated any goodwill which he may have had when he was appointed at the School.  *In particular the Commission finds that:  1. He discriminated and victimized certain teachers.  2. He mismanaged the School by denying relevant Heads of Department their statutory responsibility to be present at interviews of persons in their subject areas. 3.  He indulged in untenable managerial behaviour by his unorthodox hiring practices at the School. 4. He was unwilling to deal with disciplinary matters in the school. 5. He indulged in bullying and workplace abuse.  6. He interfered in the functioning of the various departments of the School and felt that he could do it alone.  7. He tried to implement too many things at one time.  8.  Actions and motives that are inconsistent with his are viewed as being subversive.  9.  He manipulates the students.  10.  He shouts at the teachers and engages in demeaning and belittling behaviour towards the teachers in the sight and hearing of students; and  11. He creates divisions amongst the staff.  * His fractured relationship with the Chairman of more than one Board of Management, his treatment of the Deputy Principal, his disagreements with the Senior Staff and Heads of Department made his school an institution ripe for industrial unrest. His infamous speech on December 2, 2010 was the culmination of his attacks on his senior staff.

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