Rule pulled out
After saying he knew of “absolutely” no rule against criticizing teachers in public, principal of The Alexandra Secondary School Jeff Broomes was shown one written by his former union late yesterday on Day 32 of the Commission of Inquiry at the Gymnasium of the Garfield Sobers Sports Complex.
He said that rule, however, only related to members of the Barbados Union of Teachers (BUT), which he served as president and vice-president in the 1990s.
Broomes, testifying under oath before Commissioner Frederick Waterman, said early yesterday that he had never been a part of any meeting at which any such rule was discussed, nor was he aware that any such rule had anything to do with former Coleridge and Parry principal Hallam King, who had made remarks against teachers, leading to a strike in 1995.
Veteran trade unionist Patrick Frost said last week that the Barbados Secondary Teachers’ Union (BSTU) had also led 30 Alexandra teachers on strike in January this year because Broomes’ December 2, 2011 speech at the school’s awards ceremony had breached a known union agreement.
But Broomes, who had been BUT president from 1994 to 1997, insisted yesterday he was unaware of any such agreement.
“I’m not aware of this unwritten rule. As far as I’m aware and certainly during my time either as vice-president or president of the BUT or as president of the Barbados Association of Principals of Public Secondary Schools (BAPPSS), I did not accept or believe in anything known as an unwritten industrial relations agreement. I think those things are put in writing,” he told the commission.
However, minutes before the end of yesterday’s hearing, senior counsel for the commission, Milton Pierce, produced a teachers’ handbook published in 1993 by the BUT and containing a code of ethics for teachers that reflected international best practice.
The code at Page 62, according to Pierce, reads: “Never censure or criticize other teachers or their work in the hearing of students.”
In his response, Broomes said: “I stand by my position that I know of no such agreement. What you just read, sir, is a code of members of the Barbados Union of Teachers. If one is in breach, it must be dealt with by the BUT, not anybody else. In other words, the members are answerable to that union only.”
Pierce suggested to him that once one had knowledge of something under any trade union, it didn’t mean he or she was ignorant in relation to another union.
“If you know as a BUT member that there’s a handbook which says that you should not criticize other teachers and their work in the hearing of students, we are taking about knowledge. If you know something, you know it,” added Pierce.
Stressing the point, Commissioner Waterman told Broomes that he must know he ought not to go against what the code said.
To this, Broomes replied that he did not criticize a teacher on December 2, 2011, but was condemning an action and apologizing to parents and students.