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Broomes' battle with board affected school

The Alexandra School is facing some significant challenges resulting from strained relations between Principal Jeff Broomes and chairman of the board of management Keith Simmons.

Broomes said he had made a deliberate decision not to attend recent board meetings at the school after Simmons wrote a letter regarding Alexandra’s industrial relations difficulties to Prime Minister Freundel Stuart earlier this year, a piece of correspondence the principal said people would consider “adverse” to him.

Giving evidence for a fourth straight day at the Commission of Enquiry into the St. Peter institution, he also said the school’s electricity bill was more than $40,000 and that last year money parents provided as payment for their children’s games clothing had been used to help pay for that utility, something he considered misappropriation of funds.

But the difficulties did not end there, Broomes said, as he was examined by the board’s counsel at the commission Guyson Mayers.

The official said for consecutive school years there was a difficulty with the ordering of the Physical Education uniforms for children at the school in addition to the recruitment of temporary staff for the new school year, which starts next month.

He testified that all of these difficulties were a result of challenges with Simmons and the board, and what the principal considered disrespect of his supervisory authority over staff hired by the board.

Broomes said he attended board meetings in January and February this year, but had not attended subsequent ones. “After I realised the chairman of the board had written a letter which people would call quite adverse to me to the Prime Minister I said I will not be going to meetings until this commission or whatever it is held because if you express your great bias against me without any discussion with me what am I going to do, compromise myself? And I have been very open with that statement and I stood by it,” he told the commission.

The witness also expressed surprise at the extent of the school’s light bill and the way parents funds were utilised. “I was told something about a light bill and I was told we still owe over $40,000 for the light bill, which seems strange to me,” he said.

“You cannot take up parents money that is not part of the school’s money to do that. If we are short of it communicate with the Ministry of Education. If parents have paid for their children to get outfits you have to… I call it misappropriating funds.”

“Last year the parents paid all their money for the PE uniforms … up front, they were ordered and the children never got the uniforms and unfortunately all through the school I as principal was being criticised,” he explained.

“The people had called and said the uniforms were ready (and) come get them. We could not pay for them because the money was used to do something else without any reference to the principal and I don’t know why.

“And the children had to go through a whole term without the PE clothes, they never got them until January and unfortunately I had to bear the brunt of the attack. I did not know how to defend myself without being totally critical of the secretary of the board so I took all the lashes.”

Broomes said similar challenges had returned this year before school restarted next month, in addition to others related to the hiring of temporary staff.

He attributed this to an unacceptable response from the board and said the Ministry of Education had been involved in the staffing issue. He said such matters could cause the school further embarrassment in the near future if not adequately resolved. (SC)

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