Hurt and sorry

Principal Jeff Broomes tells Commission of Enquiry things he heard at the hearing brought pain and regret

Alexandra’s embattled Principal, Jeff Broomes, is feeling “sorry” and “hurt”.

The outspoken educator said he was “so sorry” than an issue he felt “very strongly about” had “hurt people”, referring to controversial comments he made at Alexandra’s December 2, 2011 Speech Day that led to industrial action by about 30 of the school’s teaches in January this year.

But responding to weeks of allegations that he was the main cause of problems at the St. Peter institution he has headed for the last 10 years and should therefore be “separated” from it, Broomes said he found “hurtful” that in an effort to get at him, “the devil”, Alexandra and its staff faced being brought into disrepute via evidence at the Commission of Enquiry into the school’s administration and management.

Broomes began his evidence this morning at the Wildey Gymnasium, Garfield Sobers Complex, as the tribunal entered a new phase.

He told Commissioner Frederick Waterman that he had stayed away from the enquiry because of Barbados Secondary Teachers Union counsel Hal Gollop’s “constant complaints”, but primarily because of “hurtful” comments witness had made about the school and their colleagues.

The principal also insisted that his contentious statements which led to the strike were not intended to bash any teacher and he regretted any hurt caused.

“That was hurtful to me, and I felt it was better to stay home and play with my granddaughter, which I did,” he testified.

“People talk about the speech I made on December 2, (2011), but the opening statement is very clear too because that is what is happening here where you cut down all of the trees to get at the devil, because if I am seen as the devil and you are cutting down all of the trees of decency and respect to get at me, at some time the devil will stop and turn on you, where are you going to hide, because the truth is hitting you in the face at some point, where are you going to hide?

“Nobody can say I bashed any teacher, I brought an issue, I discussed an issue in a particular forum that I felt very strongly about and I had made a commitment to parents that I would have apologised at that for it and I apologised.

“I am so sorry that it would have hurt people … but nobody has said a word to me since then, nobody has come and say ‘But why you say so? You are going to apologise to me for saying this? … Not a single person, no teacher, no union, anybody has said a word to me.”

Broomes said a strike cause by his comments was the last thing he expected, saying such action “didn’t make sense to me” because of who was likely to suffer the most pain.

The principal also told the commission that evidence he had heard at the enquiry was a surprise to him, since he was hearing things for the first time, including that he and his deputy Beverley Neblett-Lashley did not speak to each other.

“I just feel badly about it, and if it’s now being said that I am responsible for that I am so sorry about that because that was the last result I expected and this past few weeks have really been an eye opener to me because I have heard some things in here that I never knew,” he stated.

“Maybe I have got to thank the honourable Prime Minster for this inquiry because obviously a lot of things are being said behind my back.

“I heard in here from Mr. Keith Simmons and Mr. (Hal) Gollop that me and Mrs. Lashley don’t speak; the very first time I heard was then. When Mrs. Lashley left to go overseas I thought we were speaking all right, I never knew that we weren’t’ speaking. We didn’t agree on a lot of things, but there is nothing wrong with professional disagreements as far as I am concerned… I heard that in here, I had never heard it before.” (SC)

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