by Latoya Burnham
Trouble may be brewing at another northern school, but a Barbados Union of Teachers official warning of possible industrial action next week.
This time it is the Alma Parris School, which one union representative has said is far from ready to open on Monday and where one teacher said that she and her counterparts at the institution were fed up.
The teacher, who requested anonymity, said the bone of contention had to do with Principal Valdez Francis and what was described his heavy-handed way of dealing with and ignoring suggestions from teachers.
“There is much unrest at the Alma Parris School,” said the teacher. “We have been given a new principal from last September, but he does not seem to know what he is doing. He is just doing as he likes.
“The timetables for the new term are a mess and the staff is frustrated that the ministry does not seem to be taking our concerns seriously. Since he took up office discipline is on the decline… We need the ministry to come and try to do something. We can’t continue like this.” The teacher of more than a decade said there was a meeting on Monday which teachers were expecting to have their concerns addressed, but it turned out to be a seminar on effective schools and communication and at no time were the problems brought up.
Barbados Union of Teachers representative, Everton Briggs, said they were at the point where if something was not done to hear their concerns before Monday, there was a good chance there would be no teaching at that institution.
“Even though Alma Parris might open,” he said, “it is far from ready.” He said teachers were upset with the timetables, especially as some of them were not being given enough teaching hours and others who were to attend classes at Erdiston Teachers College were finding it difficult to do so with their new schedules as well.
“It seems the principal has taken unilateral decision on his own and has ignored information from the heads of departments, although it was submitted,” Briggs commented, adding that some teachers had more lessons allotted, while others had none.
There had been discussion with the Ministry of Education on the matter, he noted, but officials there had promised to get back to the union, which was still awaiting that information and a meeting.
“The meeting last Monday, teachers thought would have addressed the issue… They wanted to vent their frustration, but up to now nothing has been done,” said the union rep, who also said there were some teachers who were beginning to feel like the actions were targeting and attempting to ostracise them.
“The union is calling on the ministry urgently to do something… We were hoping that the ministry would come back to us and sit with us. If things are not done as they should be, we will do something,” the union official warned, adding that teachers were at the point that they were ready to take action.
“We have sent correspondence asking them to come back to the table to dialogue. Right now we are letting the public know that things are not good at Alma Parris and urging the ministry to sit with us and have some discussion on Alma Parris, because right now it is looking as thought school will not start on Monday,” said Briggs.
When contacted, Principal Francis referred all questions to Chief Education Officer Laurie King, noting that there had been a staff meeting that morning but having not heard the complaints of teachers he could not comment. Furthermore, he said the matters were of a nature that he would have wanted teachers to come to him to have them addressed personally.
Efforts to reach the chief however were unsuccessful up to publication time.