ON REFLECTION: Shift to Parkinson a bad idea
It has been four days now since I’ve heard of the reported transfer of Alexandra Secondary School principal Jeff Broomes to the Parkinson Memorial Secondary School, and I still find it hard to believe.
What on earth could have informed a decision to remove the head of a school where, from all reports and subsequent documented findings, an irreparable rupture has occurred, and send him to another institution where his new staff, students, parents and everyone else will have preconceived notions of his capability to manage any school?
Was the decision to move Broomes to Parkinson spurred by an intensely emotional voice in someone’s head that said Broomes loves to teach and will therefore be unable to function in any other capacity?
Did someone actually feel for this most vilified man? Seriously?
I’m in total opposition to the Parkinson move, since Mr Broomes, a man of immense intelligence and organizational acumen, was never one-dimensional and should not be seen as a principal and nothing else.
Here’s a man who has not only been outstanding as a teacher – based on the rave reviews of past and present students who are best equipped to judge him – but he has given tremendous service to cricket administration and community education, at times free of charge.
With such a varied administrative background bolstered by sound initiative and pragmatism, no right-thinking educational authority should throw Mr Broomes into the virtual lion’s den.
Let’s face it; this is a very small society, and this principal, who has been proven by way of a taxpayer-funded public commission of inquiry as the man at the root of the woes of The Alexandra School, will carry the mark of this bitterly controversial episode for the rest of his life.
So to put him in yet another school setting where, at the slightest hint of conflict, someone may throw all this dirt back into his face and ours in the public domain, is like putting a once convicted arsonist to work day and night in an environment selling matches, fuel, explosives and other incendiary devices.
And I’m not saying that Broomes will go to Parkinson and willingly disrupt the peaceful ambience of that scenic Pine Hill-based institution; but his strong personality, outspokenness and inherent inclination to see obstacles as surmountable challenges and not as an excuse to “roll with the punches” will make him a magnet for controversy.
The best move by local education authorities, in my humble view, would have been to either separate Mr Broomes from all schools and place him elsewhere in the Ministry of Education, or leave him right there at The Alexandra.
By placing him somewhere in the ministry, his ideas could be brought into the educational reform which Barbados is sorely crying out for – where, as he suggested during the inquiry, discussion and analysis could be done on the revolutionary view of making teaching an essential service.
Imagine the dynamics of such a discussion based on Barbados’ history, which is now inextricably linked with the creation of a modern society via free education!
The strengthening of sports programmes in schools would also be an area in which Broomes could play a crucial role, since he has had years of success managing cricket teams at the national and Caribbean level.
In fact, some would argue that after such an ordinary performance at the London Olympics this year, Barbados needs some of the brightest minds it can get – without spending a fortune bringing in overseas coaches and administrators – to build and nurture sportsmen and women from as early as the primary school level. Sports, too, is education, lest we forget.
Furthermore, since the findings and recommendations of the inquiry have shown Broomes to be “manipulative” and “dictatorial”, why place him in an environment where he can escalate the Uncle Jeff image which has come to be resented by so many?
Will he be banned from pitching marbles with his new charges at Parkinson? And when they become close to him, as they certainly will, and give him the respect that other teachers dream of having, will a string of complaints be sent to the Ministry of Education?
And better yet, when the academic, sporting and arts results of Parkinson Memorial begin to improve at the mind-boggling rate which they did during Broomes’ ten-year tenure at The Alexandra, will the current Parkinson staff pat themselves on the back too?
With that in mind, though, I do agree with the transfer of those Alexandra teachers who were all involved in the strike and tensions at the Speightstown, St Peter school over the past year.
As most of the old scholars, who zealously guarded the traditions of their beloved school, repeated at the inquiry, the meteoric rise in the standard attained in Caribbean Examinations Council subjects and other disciplines should not be attributed to Broomes alone; therefore let us see whether they now can be individual beacons away from the comfy confines of Alexandra.
One thing is sure: Jeffrey D. Broomes will stand out wherever he goes.
• Ricky Jordan is an Associate Editor of THE NATION.