‘Tension grew among teaching staff’

Members of the Gallery at today’s sitting.

Hostility between senior teachers and some of their juniors has reached unprecedented levels at the Alexandra School.

It reached such a level, that anyone entering the school’s staff room could hear a pin drop.

The state of affairs was highlighted today by Senior Teacher Sophia Ifill as she testified at the Commission of Enquiry into the school at the Wildey Gymnasium, Garfield Sobers Sports Complex.

She said the hostility was visible at times and she could sense the tension.

“I sensed the tension because I did not go into the staff room often, but when I went into the staff room it was always, in my option, tense. People did not interact. There was a lack of interaction as (unlike) in the past, … I would say a year or two (before),” she said while being questioned by Barbados Secondary Teachers Union counsel Hal Gollop.

“I would say, in the past, although we were having problems in the school you would still get the occasional banter back and forth between persons – young, old, experienced, temporary, there was this friendliness and what’s not, so whenever you walked in there was conversation going on, there was interaction.

“From the times I went up there, there was less interaction and people were not as free with the laughing and smiling as in the past, and I started avoiding up there because it was very tense. For me, I figured it was all that was going on on the compound, the uneasy, unhappy sense from staff and students,” she added.

Ifill also pointed to increasing tensions between herself, the Principal Jeff Broomes and his counsel, coach Roger Broomes, which spilled over into relations between her and students.

“I found that sometimes when I attempted to correct, to speak to them, to just make enquiries of things the students were not as forthcoming as they use to be and things of that nature, and functioning within the school started to become a problem for me, even sometimes the use of pavilion,” she said.

“After the incident with the exams, Mr. Roger Broomes moved himself from the PE room and had his base then as the pavilion, so even sometimes I wanted to get equipment from the pavilion, and so it would not seem as though I am going in to see what’s going on, I would send people to get the equipment.

“If they brought out the wrong thing I would have to tell them ‘well, no, you did not bring out what I wanted’. So basically I started to trying to avoid the pavilion, trying to avoid contact with Mr. Broomes to avoid any more altercations and things of that nature.”

Ifill said she avoided contact with the principal “for my peace of mind and to make sure that he could not say that I, in any way, try to say or do anything to undermine him. I figured the safest thing for me to do was to stay clear of any possible encounters with the principal”.

“So anytime I had to communicate with him then, it was via writing or I would just leave messages with his secretary rather than having to come into direct contact with the principal,” she told the commission. (SC)

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