Broomes: a fighter!
HIS NAME has been on the front page of all newspapers in Barbados for the past three weeks. His image has been just as prevalent on television. Pictures of him have even appeared on Facebook.
For sure, Alexandra School principal Jeff Broomes has been in the news all January. Or, to be more factual, he has been the news.
The principal came to prominence again on the first day of the second school term on January 4 when president of the Barbados Secondary Teachers’ Union, Mary Redman, and 30 teachers of Alexandra School started industrial action, refusing to teach more than 800 students and demanding that Broomes be removed from the institution.
At the school’s speech day on December 2, Broomes, in his usual outspoken way, had called out a senior teacher for not teaching a class for an entire term. That teacher was later identified as Amaida Greaves, science department head.
That’s when the controversy reached fever pitch. The issue has been played out across all sections of Barbados for almost three weeks.
But, who really is Jeff Broomes?
The principal was born in Speightstown, St Peter, less than a mile from where he now works at Alexandra School.
He was born on Christmas Day.
At six years old, Broomes’ family moved to Bow Road, Spooners Hill, St Michael, a place which still holds a special place in his heart.
For more than a decade he has offered his time free of cost to tutor children in the area, providing lessons every Saturday from 10 a.m.
to noon and every Wednesday from 4 p.m. to 6 p.m.
“One of the things I am most proud of in my life is what I do now for the children of Bow Road,” Broomes told the SUNDAY SUN. “I’ve never accepted payment for lessons. I prefer to give my time back to them [the children].”
In addition to teaching where he grew up, Broomes also teaches Alexandra students at the school every Saturday afternoon on his own time – and he’s been doing this since 1993.
Now 58 years old, he has been married to his wife Margaret for the past 31 years, and says he’s “exceptionally happy” to have chosen her.
Broomes’ world has always been surrounded by a partnership of sports and education.
At university, he was an inter-varsity boxing champion. And that’s probably one of the reasons why he has never backed down from a fight, be it in the boardroom of the Barbados Cricket Association (BCA), with the Ministry of Education, or even with his own staff.
Swimming, and track and field
Broomes also represented his university in swimming, and track and field.
He was the person who conceptualized both the schools’ Under-13 and Under-19 cricket competitions that have led to scores of young Barbadians eventually making it onto both the junior and senior West Indies teams.
A long-time member of the BCA, he was actually the longest serving board member (from 1992) in the history of the association, which is over 100 years old, before giving up the post last year.
Always outspoken and clear-headed in his actions, the principal had the gumption in 1978 to walk into the United States Embassy, hand in his precious green card and walk out, giving up the opportunity to live and work in the United States.
“I had decided that the only place I would ever want to live was Barbados,” he revealed.
His involvement in cricket has been far and wide, and traversed playing days and administration duties.
Broomes was manager of the Barbados Under-19 team for nine years, the Under-15 team for a year and also when a Barbados Under-15 side made its first tour to England.
On the field, he actually played five games for Combined Schools as the teacher in charge during a Division 1 season.
His teaching tenure started in 1975 when he returned to Barbados, having graduated from Union University in upstate New York.
He started at St Lucy Secondary, was promoted and eventually became deputy principal of St James Secondary, followed by a similar stint at The St Michael School.
In 2002, Broomes took over at Alexandra.
The veteran educator has always done things differently, like in 2007, when he actually played in the Barbados Cricket League alongside Dwayne Smith and Ryan Nurse.
“I wanted to see them remain on the right track. There were plenty temptations around and playing cricket was a way of keeping them on the right path. We wanted to keep them sharp and in the right environment.”
Broomes grew up as a fan of the Police team in Division 1 cricket because his uncle Oliver Broomes was captain of the side.
Today, however, he’s a Maple fan, and had a stint as vice-president of the club as well.
The Alexandra principal was also vice-president of the Barbados Union of Teachers (BUT) for five years when current Minister of Education Ronald Jones led the body. He later became president and led the BUT for three years.
Now, he has another fight on his hands.
And, like vintage Jeff Broomes, he is yet to back down.