TEACHERS AT ALEXANDRA SCHOOL have been under heavy public fire from the middle of last week, when they started industrial action.
But the educators have received support from a number of past students, former teachers, parents and even a talk show host.
It is the third time in as many years that the more than 30-plus teachers represented by the Barbados Secondary Teachers’ Union (BSTU) have withdrawn their services to protest issues with principal
Jeff Broomes dating as far back as ten years.
This time teachers intend to remain off the job until the Ministry of Education accedes to a request for a separation of Broomes from the school.
The teachers and their representative, the BSTU, complain about a growing list of grievances dating back a decade, saying all this was compounded by Broomes’ controversial management style and his “poor” treatment of staff. Things have reached the stage where they can no longer work with him, the teachers have said.
Criticism has been fast and furious on the call-in radio programmes – with moderators among the critics in some instances. The teachers have been accused of not caring about their students, of being delinquent, and a host of other unflattering things.
But head of the English Department, Leslie Lett, says the teachers are far from “wutless”. He highlighted their achievements at the school and national level, including four Teacher Of The Year awards and a number of Service Excellence awards.
In the midst of the public bashing of the teachers since their withdrawal of labour from the beginning of the school year, some past students and a former colleague have been vigorous in their defence.
Testimonies of their dedication and personal sacrifice to assist students were aired at an emergency general meeting the BSTU called at the Lloyd Erskine Sandiford Centre last Friday.
Talk show host Marsha Hinds-Layne, who entered Alexandra School in 1994, said: “Whether I like them as people, whether I didn’t like them as people . . . they [teachers] did what they were supposed to do when I was at Alexandra School. And I could have gone on Brass Tacks or wherever and said that, but I thought it pertinent to come here and say it and stand as a face on a person and say the teachers at Alexandra School ain’t wutless.
“Alexandra School is 116 years old; there was Alexandra before Jeff Broomes, there will be Alexandra after Jeff Broomes. And I am tired and offended every single time I hear the name of my school that it is being dragged through the mud . . . . One person cannot make a school,” she said to loud applause.
Hinds-Layne added that she was waiting to see who was going to stand at the side of the children at Alexandra School, who needed real life options.
Former headboy and president of the students’ council, Stephenson Carter, also defended his former teachers, whom he credited with helping him to become a qualified chef.
“There weren’t many lunch-times that I had. You know how many times I couldn’t play at lunch-time because these ‘wutless’ teachers keep me from playing in my lunch-time to achieve to this day? These are 30-odd of the most dedicated teachers that you will find in Barbados, and I have no apologies for [saying] that.
“If you check the statistics of all of these here sitting down . . . in front of you, the passing grades that these have, some of you all will never see,” he submitted, adding that he hoped the teachers would remain “vagabonds” and fight for what was right.
Desiree Benn, who entered school in 2003, told of teachers staying long after school to work with students, adding they should not be seen as people who did not care.
“He [Broomes] is an adult and these teachers are adults. It is time that these adults sit down and resolve this matter as the civilized adults that they are . . . .“Mr Broomes needs to remember that . . . it is his responsibility, as a principal, to ensure that the students of the Alexandra School leave as well-rounded individuals to be of benefit to their society,” she said.
Maurice Blenman would have taught with some of the same teachers during his near 20-year tenure at the St Peter school. His stint was pre-Broomes.
“I can attest that effective teaching and effective learning occurred then. When I hear of what is being said about my former colleagues, except they went through some kind of radical transformation, I do not know them,” Blenman stated.