Jones says Alexandra School transfers are totally legal
Minister of Education Ronald Jones is defending the recent transfer of 18 teachers from The Alexandra School, saying the authorities acted within the confines of the law.
Responding to a court challenge that has been mounted by the Barbados Secondary Teachers’ Union (BSTU) against the move, Jones was adamant that his Ministry did nothing wrong in its execution of the transfers of principal Jeff Broomes and 17 others. Broomes was subsequently sent to head the Parkinson Memorial Secondary School.
“The Ministry of Education did nothing wrong in executing what it was mandated to do in relation to dealing with all the issues at The Alexandra School. In everything, one has to look at what is fair, what is correct, [and] what is law.
“We can’t do anything illegal. We operated within the full parameters of the law, and the law is quite clear,” he said, stressing, “I know everything can be interpreted, but the law is quite clear”.
The BSTU legal action comes almost a year and a half after the Frederick Waterman-led Commission of Inquiry into the dispute between the union and then principal Broomes recommended that teachers be moved from the St Peter institution, and reassigned to other secondary schools across the system.
The BSTU has viewed the subsequent transfers as punishment for “all the teachers, save one” who testified before the Commission of Inquiry.
In light of the decision, President Mary Anne Redman had also expressed her outrage and utter disappointment, while condemning the manner in which the Ministry has sought to deal with the teachers.
However, when asked by Barbados TODAY to comment on the threat of legal action that is currently hanging over the education sector, Jones maintained that, “we didn’t get involved in any breaches of the law in effecting a calm at that school and for pedagogy to continue unabated”.
In fact, he said Ministry officials were “quite pleased” with the results that emanated from that school as a result of the calm which prevailed.
He also said the BSTU was free to do whatever it thought it should do in defence of its members, while noting that “the Government, through the Ministry of Education, has the right to do whatever is beneficial for the overall system of education in Barbados.
“We are a country of laws and at the end of the day the BSTU is going that route, so I wish them the best. Some things can be frivolous, I do not know if this is in fact so, but at the end of the day, the court is the final arbiter. I do not know what [is the BSTU’s grouse], but we are part of a total judicial system . . . and we respect the law.
“They will do whatever they have to do or think they have to do, full stop!”
Meantime, the Minister of Education has dismissed as “premature and immature” reports of a drastic reduction in enrolment at the University of the West Indies, Cave Hill Campus this year, blamed on the Government’s decision to stop paying tuition fees for Barbadians, effective September.
“All of this rushing to press and printing and comments and prejudging the environment, this never happened before. Let the people [students] go and register, let the numbers settle and in some times we will all know the numbers at UWI,” said Jones.
He noted that the UWI’s registration process was not yet over.
“[Therefore], I am not going to go out there and give any running commentary about 50 people in that faculty and 61 in that faculty. That is premature and immature and you can quote me on that,” he said.
At the same time, he advised students not to drop out, but to “stay the course” of their programmes at the UWI, even though he acknowledged that the adjustment in fees meant that not everyone would be able to meet the payments on their own.
The Minister, however, implored existing students to make use of the resources available to them so that they could complete their studies.