Not moving!

Alexandra Chairman Keith Simmons, QC.

by Shawn Cumberbatch

Not even an offer of $1 million would get Principal Jeff Broomes to leave the Alexandra School willingly.

That’s what Chairman, Keith Simmons QC, said the principal declared to him and other members of the board of management during one of its contentious meetings.

This was revealed today by Simmons as he gave evidence at the Commission of Enquiry into Alexandra at the Wildey Gymnasium, Garfield Sobers Sports Complex.

The official said Broome’s assertion, came during what became regular “outbursts” during such meetings.

“At one point in time I think the board was discussing Mr. Roger Broomes and the principal said ‘look he is my cousin and as long as I am the principal here he will be working here’. I did not respond, again I just smiled because at that point in time I think we had worked out a system in how to deal with the principal’s outbursts,” he said.

“When these outbursts come I would not say anything, just ignore it, because it just did not make sense. “He said to us sometime too, ‘if you offering me a million dollars I ain’t leaving this school’. I mean out of the blue, nobody was discussing the issue of the school and again I said nothing because it was not in context with anything so I just blank it,” Simmons added.

Such behaviour, the prominent lawyer noted, was indicative of Broomes, especially in relations with some of his teaching staff and in his dealings with the board of management, relationships which all became fractured.

“In the early days I could remember saying to Mr. Broomes that I didn’t like how he spoke to people and I felt that he needs to sometimes count to three before he answers and he said to me ‘That is the way I speak!’ and I said ‘If you were to speak to me (like that) I wouldn’t even hear you’,” he said.

Simmons was especially unhappy with the principal’s relationship with his deputy, Beverley Lashley, and the fact she had been effectively banished to a room at the back of the school hall, which did not even have a window.

“There is no way that anybody could get me to occupy that room, not even if I was the porter,” Simmons told the commission.

“It still houses the deputy principal at the back of the hall where you would normally store the piano and the equipment from the school,” he noted, adding he had asked the Minister of Education for finances to improve the accommodation for the deputy.

Asked by the commission’s senior counsel, Milton Pierce, to respond to information which showed the school’s academic achievement had improved under Broomes’ leadership and amid industrial relations problems, Simmons said he did not teach all subjects and that he “has some good teachers”.

“If the results are good now and there is so much tension you could imagine if everybody was working with ease what would happen. If they got 82 per cent in this tension, they would get 90 per cent otherwise,” he said.

The chairman said one of the reasons Broomes might have met major opposition recently at Alexandra was because he had not tried to understand the school’s culture.

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