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Chairman should go

Alexandra chairman Keith Simmons QC chatting with Commission counsel Milton Pierce. (File Photo)

Chairman of the Alexandra School’s board of management, Keith Simmons, QC, has been negligent in the performance of his duties and should have resigned from the post.

The prominent lawyer and former Minister of Education faced that submission from Principal Jeff Broomes’ senior counsel Vernon Smith, QC today.

Smith claimed that Simmons, by not asking to see a school log book in the possession of the principal, and thereby not being aware of an allegation that teacher Amaida Greaves was not carrying out her duties, had breached the Education Regulations under which he was appointed to function.

He then suggested that Simmons should have thrown in the towel.

“If you cannot carry out the functions that you are appointed to do then give up the position, it is as simple as that. But the purpose of the diary and of the log book is for the ministry, the minister and for every member of the board…, so if you don’t look in there to see what is happening in the school you are absolutely negligent, you are not performing your function under the act,” Smith asserted.

The exchanges came during a briefly contentious period of examination this morning at the Wildey Gymnasium, Garfield Sobers Sports Complex as the chairman began his fourth day in the witness chair.

Responding to questions from Smith, Simmons said he was “not seized of the facts” so he could not deal with the Greaves issue, adding that no report had been made to him by Broomes and he only found out about the issue via the media.

But Smith told Simmons that Education Regulation 6 gave him the right to request a diary or log book from the principal, and that this book was used to capture all matters of importance related to the school.

“The principal is the supervisor… The chairman of the board cannot be there on a daily basis to make sure that these things are done,” Simmons said.

Smith said in response: “A log book does exist, and what you said you didn’t know about is in the log book. I am talking about the incident of the teacher not teaching the class.”

Simmons: “I think it is incumbent on any principal for anything that happens at the school to draw it to the attention of the board. When I go at the school on Friday mornings it is ample time for him to tell me anything.”

It was then that Smith told the commission the chairman “has been delinquent in the performance of his functions on the board”.

Both commission senior counsel Milton Pierce and Barbados Secondary Teachers Union senior counsel Hal Gollop then both intervened, with both suggesting because the log book was in the control of the principal and was held under lock and key, seeing it was not routine.

Gollop said principals always kept log books “under their sacred trust” and “only bring it out when they come to use it as a sword”.

“That is not something, Sir, that anybody, a chairman, a board member, a teacher or anybody could walk in and find it open. A log book is something that a principal guards jealously,” he said.

Smith, however, said under the law, Simmons could see the log book when he wanted to and that Broomes had not discretion in such circumstances.

“It is kept in a cupboard and it must be made available by the board and any person authorised by the minister. Any member of the board or person authorised by the minister must see it once they ask for it,” he maintained.

Smith said as soon as Broomes was aware of the reported non teaching by Greaves he wrote it in the log book. This was about five weeks subsequent to the alleged non instruction.

Simmons on the other hand, said Broomes had ample opportunity to report the alleged non teaching to him and the board, via the principal’s report he made at each board meeting.

“I did not have the sight of the key… I have never seen the log book. Mr. Commissioner I believe there must be a reason. If there must a reason to see the log book I would have seen the log book, there was no reason,” the chairman told the commission. (SC)

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