Woods: I was not hand-picked
English teacher Vernel Woods yesterday denied she might have been a cause of any disharmony at The Alexandra School because she was a friend of principal Jeff Broomes’.
Under intense and prolonged questioning by Barbados Secondary Teachers’ Union (BSTU) lawyer Hal Gollop at the inquiry into the school’s troubles, Woods said she did not know the reason she was treated with reticence by the staff.
This was after it was suggested by Gollop that former English department head Margo Clarke had announced Woods’ coming long before she had arrived while most of the staff knew of her friendship with Broomes.
Woods also denied she was “hand-picked”.
Woods, who got a transfer as a senior teacher from St Lucy but had to take a cut in salary because there were no vacant senior posts at Alexandra back in 2006, mentioned an incident involving junior teacher Ryan Clarke in recalling examples of “defiance and disrespect” shown to Broomes by the staff.
She insisted that Clarke, who was upset about a risqué poster for a fete at the school, was excessive in his attempt to draw the poster to the principal’s attention. In her view, Clarke went overboard in persisting in his reference to the poster even after Broomes had taken note of it at a staff meeting.
Regarding the deputy principal, whose behaviour Woods described as “unprofessional” on Monday, Woods told the commission that during staff meetings the deputy would sometimes roll her eyes and portray the kind of body language that showed disagreement with the principal.
However, when asked whether the principal himself was unprofessional toward his deputy, Woods said she “was not privy to their interaction”.
The English teacher, who also won awards for Teacher Of The Year and for Service and Industry within her six years at Alexandra, also denied that she had declined an invitation to join the BSTU because it would have helped the union’s cause against Broomes.
She said that she had long been a member of the Barbados Union of Teachers and saw no reason to leave it.
Regarding the January teachers’ strike action, Woods said she personally would not have gone on strike “because the children were more affected by it than Mr Broomes”.
She also praised the principal for the school’s improving academic and sporting profile, and disagreed that it had done well “in spite of” Broomes, as current English department head Leslie Lett opined last week.
“Under Mr Broomes’ leadership, I have seen positives over the past six years,” said Woods, while noting that students had benefited from exposure to the annual Emerging Global Leaders’ Programme through a stint at York University in Toronto; while several Alexandra teachers had attended the world’s largest teachers’ convention in Anaheim, California – both the result of Broomes’ assistance.
Furthermore, she noted Broomes’ “very good rapport with the students [who are] very responsive to him”, as well as the thunderous applause he received each morning at assembly during the explosive strike action in January.
Personally, Woods said she had travelled three times to York with Alexandra students, and had also gone to Anaheim twice as a result of winning the school’s Service and Industry and Teacher Of The Year awards.
The commission resumes tomorrow at the Gymnasium of the Garfield Sobers Sports Complex, when science teacher Dwayne Bryan will be called.