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Large and in charge

Julian Hunte

Any stranger entering the board room of the Alexandra School within the last year would think Principal Jeff Broomes was actually the chairman of the school’s board of management.

Broomes was virtually large and in charge at these meetings and a senior trade unionist serving on the board of the Alexandra School during that time could not believe his eyes and ears. Evidence of a dominating Broomes emerged today during the testimony of that board member Julian Hunte, who is the Barbados Workers Union’s Deputy General Secretary.

Hunte said it became apparent from his first board meeting in June 2011 that Broomes felt he should be the dominant force and this was displayed in the way he spoke to board members.

“That first meeting the person who appeared to be in charge, who set the pace at which the meeting progressed, who dominated discussion, was the principal. I did not see a high level of cooperation, or the level of cooperation that I thought should come from the principal, when inquiries of various issues were made of the principal by members of the board,” he recalled.

“He was not very accommodating of views which were unlike his own views. I think his attitude to issues raised by the board was in a way dismissive.”

“I have seen other school board meetings, I have been on other school boards, and I have noticed that what is consistent is strong personalities on the part of the principals. However, in my other experience that other principal was very much a gentleman, more tolerant and polite of interventions made by board members and of questions asked,” he noted.

Hunte said he did not think Broomes displayed “an adequate amount of patience, tolerance, has not spoken to members of the board in a tone, in a manner which was really conducive to the type of symbiotic relationship that is suppose to exist between a principal and a board”.

He said most of the principal’s speeches at board meetings were “forceful in nature”, something he did not have a problem with in principle, but he said there was “an argumentative tone when not even in an argument”.

“That is why from my first meeting I had to ask whether school board meetings have a particular way of being run which differs from the way other statutory board meetings are run, where I know the chairman is very much in charge,” he stated.

“But at the board of management of the Alexandra School meeting a person walking in, the proverbial fly on the wall, who doesn’t have the names of the individuals sitting around the table would reasonably be mistaken that the principal is in charge of the meeting.”

Responding to a question from commission junior counsel Michael Yearwood, Hunte said he did not think speaking to Broomes individually would make a difference.

“No I did not attempt to have any one-on-one conversation with the principal based on my assessment of where the principal is cognitively, I am comfortable that such an effort would have been a waste of time.”

Hunte also said it would be a stretch to discuss what existed between Broomes and the board as a relationship.

“I think that to describe what exists between the principal and the board as a relationship is actually generous. The interactions, when I look at how members of the board interact with the principal they are very minimalist, not much interaction. When I look at the principal’s interaction with the board it looks as if the principal struggles to tolerate the board,” he told the commission. (SC)

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