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Teachers standing their ground

BSTU’s executive members chatting on the verandah.

by Donna Sealy and Latoya Burnham

The majority of the Alexandra School teachers who received letters transferring them to other secondary schools are standing their ground.

Instead of heading to those schools, they will be reporting for duty at the Barbados Secondary Teachers’ Union headquarters in Belleville, St. Michael, where they will meet with their President Mary Redman and other executive members for the second straight day and every day after that until the matter is resolved.

Redman told Barbados TODAY this afternoon after meeting those same teachers from around 9:30 this morning that they want those letters suspended or rescinded in addition to a meeting, or meetings with any official who can answer their questions.

One of the items on tomorrow’s agenda is “matters impacting on the teachers as a result of those transfer letters”.

“They are suffering deep psychological trauma and we are continuing to meet with them and offer guidance and counsel in this matter. The teachers do want to get to school and therefore those in authority who should meet with the union to facilitate that process need to recognise that and to have a timely meeting with us so we can get certain matters clarified and we can get this matter resolved in the way in which it needs to be resolved,” she said.

The trade union head noted that the teachers considered the action taken by the ministry as “punitive” because they had exercised their constitutional rights.

“It is instructive also that that group of transferred teachers includes all the teachers who were invited and took up invitation to take up their democratic right to give evidence at the Commission of Enquiry.

Mary Redman

“The transfers are being seen by them to be their punishment. What message is this sending to other law abiding citizens in this country in the future of other commissions of enquiry or similar structures. Is this Siberia or Nazi Germany? Is democracy being replaced by communism or facism?” she asked.

Redman stated the union hoped that things “will happen” and that meetings being requested were with Prime Minister Freundel Stuart, the chief personnel officer and anyone at “any level” who was able to “address our concerns and resolve the issue”.

She explained that while letters are expected to be delivered tomorrow, the request for a meeting had been sent to Stuart indicating they were willing to meet in “short order at any level”. Futhermore, the BSTU head made it clear they needed a “productive” meeting — one where people can come with answers and “people can treat to us responsibly and respectfully”.

Seventeen teachers, executive members as well as shop stewards from other schools attended the meeting so they could apprise the BSTU members at their schools.

This morning new principal Orson Alleyne and his deputy June Browne met with teachers, including those who have been transferred to the St. Peter school, at the Caribbean Development Bank’s Wildey headquarters.

Some of them were upbeat about starting the new term but others expressed their disappointment with being moved from their former schools to the beleaguered school.

Shortly after 9 a.m., Chief Education Officer Laurie King, Deputy Chief Education Officers, Karen Best and David Clement, as well as Psychologist Juanita Brathwaite and Senior Education Officer Patricia Warner arrived at the CDB.

King and Best greeted Alleyne and Browne warmly outside of the conference room before being joined by Clement. The team then headed into the foyer and into the meeting.

The chief education officer, Best, the principal and his deputy who addressed the teachers spoke positively, offering words of encouragement in the difficult times. They pledged their commitment to work with the teachers and the students to ensure the continued delivering of education. King also praised the teachers for their hard work and dedication.

Human Resources expert Hensley Sobers also made a presentation.

Alleyne headed Parkinson Memorial for the last five years and Browne was at Combermere School.

That first meeting ended before 11 a.m. after which a management team meeting started.

Principal Jeff Broomes is on sick leave until January 24 and Deputy Principal at Parkinson Memorial Secondary Maxine Mayers, where he was being transferred, will act in that position instead.

This evening, members of CTUSAB held an emergency session at the Solidarity House headquarters.

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