Broomes’ letters of complaint
THE MINISTRY OF EDUCATION received a letter last June from the Alexandra School complaining about a senior teacher who had refused to teach a class, and reportedly did nothing.
This is the teacher at the centre of the current dispute between the Barbados Secondary Teachers’ Union (BSTU) and Alexandra principal Jeff Broomes, which stemmed from the remarks Broomes made about her on December 2.
The teacher, who so far has not been officially identified, is head of the schools’ science department, Amaida Greaves, who, based on SUNDAY SUN investigations and legal documentation, reported that Broomes had hired three substitute teachers to oversee her classes.
Greaves, who has a longstanding background in education – as a teacher at Alexandra, a former student of the Speightstown school and the wife of Acting Deputy Chief Education Officer Erwin Greaves – declined to comment on the issue as it raged within the last week.
However, a letter, which was obtained from a source in the Ministry of Education on Wednesday, complained of Greaves being assigned to teach a fourth form CXC chemistry class and refusing to do so.
Dated June 4, 2011, and addressed to the Chief Education Officer, the letter, signed by the principal and bearing Alexandra’s letterhead, stated that the school had been faced with the dilemma of two staff members taking leave for medical reasons. As a result, the head of the science department was assigned to fill in, but this, according to the letter, was proving problematic.
It stated: “I write seeking your [Chief Education Officer] intervention in a matter that has the potential to seriously compromise the educational interest of some of our more vulnerable students (those at the onset of their CXC programme).
“Having had to make timetable adjustments because of changed staff personnel occasioned by the maternity leave taken by one staff member and other medical leave by another, I am now faced with an unfortunate (and unprofessional) situation.
“The Head of the Science department (Mrs Amaida Greaves) was assigned to teach one of the fourth form CXC Chemistry classes for the remainder of this term. Despite the fact that this is the area of her qualifications and training, she has openly and defiantly refused to teach the class.
This is even more of an issue when it is realized that she quite bluntly told me, when challenged, that she would not be teaching the class.
“This sets a bad precedent, is unfair to the children and can only negatively impact the teaching and learning environment here at the school. I have previously had to communicate her non-cooperation with the rules and regulations and am once again requesting your urgent attention to this matter.”
Jeffrey D. Broomes.
Greaves has declined to comment, while her representative union president Mary Redman, has also kept the science department head out of the limelight.
However, in a list of complaints by the BSTU under the title of Management Methodology & Teacher Selection Even Since Beginning of 2010-2011 Academic Year, there’s a section on Greaves in which she recaps the teacher substitutions which directly affected her.
In the document, she said Broomes discussed her replacement by “a teacher who had never taught chemistry at fifth form level” during the last week of Term 1. The male teacher, she added, was assigned to both of Greaves’ fifth form groups and was supposed to teach chemistry to those groups during the September term of academic year 2010-2011.
Greaves added: “This decision disadvantaged the students, especially since this teacher would have to prepare, supervise and correct the school-based assessments for three classes, something he had never done before”
Greaves also stated, in the BSTU document, that a female teacher was employed in Term 2 of the same year, counter to her (Greaves’) recommendations. This teacher, Greaves added, was employed from January to March last year, taught diet and healthy lifestyle, first and second form integrated science, and had been assigned to teach third form biology, chemistry and physics.
Added Greaves: “I am informed that she possessed an associate degree in culinary arts. She also has ‘O’ Level biology as her only other science subject.”
Greaves also says in the document that she was on a term’s leave in Term 2 of 2010-2011 and expected that upon her return in Term 3 that she would have returned to her Term 1 timetable. “But the principal informed me that he was reassigning [the female teacher] to teach part of the timetable of Mrs Greaves, that he would use [the male teacher] to teach other parts, and that he was asking me to teach [the male teacher’s] fourth year chemistry class.”
She added that the principal dismissed her suggestion that the female teacher was neither qualified nor capable of handling science subjects.
Greaves also recalled that another female teacher was recruited by Broomes, without consulting her as science department head. This teacher was assigned to a first form class to which Greaves had previously been assigned.
Greaves also said she was informed that the latter would teach some classes previously allocated to the first female teacher, and that the male teacher was timetabled to teach Greaves’ fourth and fifth year integrated science classes, among others.
Added Greaves: “The principal insisted that he was following the requirements of the Education Act and what was dictated by the Ministry of Education.
When I pointed out that he was not following their directive to involve [two] heads of departments in the hiring of substitute teachers when the persons taught in two departments, he argued that he was principal and had the right to hire whomsoever he wanted and to assign them to teach what he wanted.”
The ministry has not so far responded to those letters from Broomes and the BSTU.
A previous letter, sent by the principal to Greaves on May 24 last year, stated: “I write to you as a grave matter of concern. I was just informed by two fourth form students that you have not turned up to teach their class on any day for the past five weeks, although you were available and present at school. This, if correct, is a shocking situation that leaves much to be desired professionally.
“You may recall that, at the beginning of the term, I met with you and discussed the assignment of teachers within your department to compensate for the medical absence of one of our colleagues. At no time have I approved any change to the agreed assignments.
“You may have issues with what was agreed to but, despite the fact that it is my duty to make such assignments, I met with you, discussed the proposals and arrived at an agreement.
“Although one teacher had to leave and be replaced by another unqualified one, nothing has changed in relation to your assigned classes.
“I am respectfully requesting that you teach the classes to which you were assigned and do not allow our children to be left untaught and unsupervised.
We have got to be more professional and committed than that. As a parent, you, like I, must appreciate that this is not fair to the children who are seeking to develop themselves.”
Seven months later, at the school’s December 2 awards ceremony, Broomes complained in the presence of staff, parents, students and others that a teacher had gone through “an entire term refusing to teach a class of fourth form students who were assigned to her”. He added then that she had told him on two occasions “I am not teaching them!”
When charged by the BSTU that those remarks were a violation of the Code of Professional Conduct, Broomes also stated in a written response, obtained by the SUNDAY SUN, “I find it difficult to accept that the principal making
an honest and direct reference to a well-known occurrence during the school year could in any way be a violation of professional conduct.
It was my duty to report the truth and the facts (be they good or bad) and I carried it out as I should and would again!”
The December 2 remarks led to the industrial action which has enveloped Barbados for the last two weeks and has drawn into the fray the island’s two largest trade unions – the Barbados Workers’ Union and the National Union of Public Workers – and Minister of Education Ronald Jones.