Principal of the Alexandra School, Jeff Broomes, is facing an allegation that he embellished the academic record of a former senior student.
In a development today which drew strong objection from the principal’s legal counsel Vernon Smith, QC, the school’s Deputy Principal Beverley Neblett-Lashley told the Commission of Enquiry into Alexandra of a claim that Broomes altered the grades and duration of study of a fifth former, who had transferred from the Combermere School.
With both Commissioner Frederick Waterman and Smith calling the allegation “a very serious matter” that had to be properly investigated in the interest of being fair to the principal, the deputy principal said she had been provided with documented information from retired secretary Merlene Sealy which substantiated the claim.
The issue became a major point of contention today when the tribunal met at the Wildey Gymnasium, Garfield Sobers Sports Complex.
As her evidence was being led by commission senior counsel Milton Pierce, Neblett-Lashley was asked to elaborate on the above issue, which she had raised as a matter of concern in her witness statement and accompanying exhibits.
She said the student involved entered Alexandra in fifth form, and that Sealy had indicated Broomes had instructed her to type a transcript on the young woman’s academic performance for transmittal to her at a Unites States address.
Neblett-Lashley told the commission that in a document purportedly bearing the hand writing of Broomes the students grades were elevated from failure to excellence, and her record made to show that she was a student of Alexandra from first form, when she had only spent one school year there.
“When we have students who alter their reports we call in their parents and we read the riot act to them and tell them that it is illegal and they can land themselves in trouble. I didn’t interact with him on it but the secretary did, she told him and she objected to doing it but she felt that since he was her superior she had to do it,” the witness testified.
“Sir, I believe that it is illegal to fabricate records… It’s very difficult to respect somebody like that and you question their word… He has a credibility crisis.” It was around this time that the issue stirred controversy at the hearing, with Smith repeatedly objecting to the hand written information being accepted as evidence, saying there was no proof that it was written by Broomes.
He also pointed out that the document showed that someone else had written on it, to which Pierce noted that it was that of Sealy.
“My contention is that this is claimed to have been given to somebody by Mr. Broomes. This is a typed copy of this (hand written document) so this (document) is secondary to this (document), so this has no validity unless this has validity, that is logical,” he protested.
“This is not a document that shows that it was prepared or anything by Mr. Broomes, it does not indicate it… The school would have to have a record of her year at the school and this cannot be a record of her year at the school… It has to be a concoction of somebody.”
“This is something that has been comprised by somebody else,” he insisted. Waterman later ruled that Sealy would be summoned to appear as a witness. This was after Guyson Mayers, counsel for chairman of the board of management Keith Simmons, offered to have a handwriting expert verify that the text was written by Broomes. Waterman: “We realise Mr. Smith that this is a very serious matter.” Smith: “This is a very serious matter.” Waterman: “We will get Miss Sealy and she will say from whom she received (exhibit) 26 and if she typed (exhibit) 27.”
“This raises very serous questions of collusions, almost a conspiracy. I will deal with this when I get instructions from client, because my client is not aware of this,” Smith said. (SC)