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A simple solution


Shantal Munro Knight

A simple solution

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MOST BARBADIANS I think wake up with some trepidation, wondering what else will go wrong or what new revelation will highlight the absolute lack of basic respect and good judgment that has been the hallmark of the Alexandra impasse.
As far as I am concerned, all the parties involved – none more than another – should share the blame for their part in this saga. The bigger picture, though, is that this situation clearly highlights the fragility of public sector management.
Any good leader or manager worth his pay knows that in order to be successful, you need to motivate your team, keep them focused and continually reinforce a shared vision.
From the time Mr Broomes used a Speech Day to publicly highlight a staff issue to an audience of friends and strangers alike – and worse yet, in the presence of local media – he ceased to be an effective leader who could motivate his staff to follow him.
To even suggest he was within his right to do so because the case he outlined was true is like my daughter saying mummy, I jumped off the back of the chair because the chair was there and the floor was there – all true, but it does not make the action right or show good judgment.  
More than anyone, Mr Broomes with his long tenure in the educational system and in his present position as principal should know the proper procedures to resolve personnel issues. To publicly address it in the way he did and then issue a challenge to the union to “bring it on” was not befitting his position or responsibility.  
Worse yet, having an association of principals and a national union come out and support his actions is telling. I would suggest that they turn their attention to some good management training and helping Mr Broomes prepare a public apology. Sometimes being a good leader or just a good person means taking responsibility for your actions.
I assume this is what we try to instil in schools.     
I am sure somewhere in the Public Service Act speaks to the appropriate actions that can be taken against an employee who refuses to follow a directive.
How does a teacher stand in front of schoolchildren and expect to have any kind of authority when it comes to discipline and respect if they cannot exercise the same in the execution of their duties?
We have all had bad bosses and when we get to the point where we feel that their leadership just does not make any sense, appropriate channels should be used.   
To the students, sorry, I do understand that you need to have a voice and your opinion matters but sometimes it is good to stay out of big people’s business. Because someone comes and pats you on the back, knows you by name and goes to your basketball matches should not be the defining criteria of their leadership. You are not in the staff room or at the end of other exchanges.
I like the stance of the Parent-Teacher Association: stay neutral but press for the rights of the students.
My best advice to the Barbados Secondary Teachers’ Union (BSTU) is to hire a good public relations person and stop Mary Redman from wearing red and speaking to the media. What madness, by your own admission you sent letters outlining why you are not going to a meeting and then sent an emissary – to do what? Now you say you are confused about the turn of events; please.   
To the Ministry of Education, the current situation at The Alexandra School did not erupt yesterday.
The BSTU signalled early that they intended to pull their members and engage in industrial action.
Somehow in the midst of the publicly declared intractable positions of both parties, someone forgot to put a contingency plan in place to ensure the interests of the students. Furthermore the revelation that the ministry had a report from an independent party outlining recommendations and did not do anything is telling in itself.
I am also totally confused by the Special Committee established by the Prime Minister. He promised a swift resolution and then proceeded to set up a committee chaired by a minister who just days before had thrown up his hands in despair and said over to you, Prime Minister.
Somehow he has now gotten special powers to unravel a situation in which his ministry has vested interest because at least one of the parties has indicated that the ministry is partly to blame for the current impasse. The whole process is just bad mediation and conciliation practice.  
My simple solution: separate everybody. The Ministry of Education has a policy of moving principals around for a variety of reasons. It also moves teachers between schools to share expertise and whatever else.
The Civil Service Act should also offer some other solutions. We await the speedy resolution.   
• Shantal Munro Knight is a development specialist and deputy coordinator at the Caribbean Policy Development Centre. Email [email protected]

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