EDITORIAL: What now after Report on Alexandra?
NOW?THAT?THE?REPORT of the Waterman Commission Of Inquiry has been laid in Parliament, the question on the lips of every Barbadian must be: what’s next?
Expectedly, the man at the centre of the inquiry, The Alexandra School principal Jeff Broomes, has received little praise, if any, from commissioner retired Justice Frederick Waterman, and much condemnation. Clearly, Justice Waterman was neither impressed by Mr Broomes’ “crusading zeal and misguided notions of his personal transformational management style” nor his “infamous speech on December 2, 2010”, and baulked at the principal’s “manipulat[ing of] the students”.
For all of this – and more – Justice Waterman has recommended that “immediate steps . . . be taken to invoke the provisions of Section 5.5 of the General Orders of the Public Service to place the principal on a leave of absence from the school in the public interest, while more permanent arrangements are negotiated for his reassignment elsewhere in the Public Service, or alternatively, for his compulsory retirement from the public service”.
For the Barbados Secondary Teachers’ Union this is a welcome proposal, by which its head Mary-Anne Redman feels vindicated. Mr Broomes has nothing much to say, except that he will be guided by his lawyers.
Already attorney Vernon Smith, QC, has intimated that “under section 17 of the [Commission of Inquiry] Act, the report has to be laid by the Governor General before both Houses of Parliament” and that it cannot really be considered public, or properly published, until that is done as far as he is concerned.
Added to this is the Opposition Barbados Labour Party’s argument that though The Alexandra School Report was laid in Parliament outlining the findings of Justice Waterman, the Public Service Commission still has to conduct its own investigations and hearings.
This controversy is really not yet over, unless perhaps Mr Broomes willingly walks away; advising the chief personnel officer of his intention to retire with immediate effect and applying for all benefits due him.
And would he? Some may ask why should he? Indeed, the harrying question is: what’s next?
One niggling uncomfortable aspect of it all though is the perception of Mr Broomes’ manipulating of his charges – which Justice Waterman advises we ignore at their peril. We are all for discipline in school. God knows we need it. But care must be taken that a rapport with students is not misinterpreted for inappropriate influence, any more than overlooked indiscipline is mistranslated to youthful and creative expression.
Very soon we could have the answers to our concerns. After a search at a cost of $1/2 million plus we are deserving of such. So what’s next?