School chaos

BUT president says Alma Parris in shambles

The Alma Parris Memorial Secondary School is in a state of “total confusion and chaos”.

President of the Barbados Union of Teachers (BUT) Pedro Shepherd gave the grim assessment today after emerging from a two-hour meeting with 11 of the school’s 17 teachers at the union’s Welches, St Michael headquarters.

He said the BUT was preparing to dispatch an urgent letter to the Ministry of Education outlining a number of outstanding issues dating back to 2010. In the meantime, Shepherd said teachers at the St Peter school would continue with “a work-to-rule”, in response to management’s failure to address their longstanding concerns.

President of the Barbados Union of Teachers (BUT) Pedro Shepherd addressing members of the Press after this morning’s meeting.
President of the Barbados Union of Teachers (BUT) Pedro Shepherd addressing members of the Press after this morning’s meeting.

“We have been fighting this battle with Alma Parris as an institution and the Ministry of Education for approximately four years,” Shepherd said, stressing that “the matters continue to go unresolved”.

“We have held several meetings at the level of the Ministry, at the level of the Permanent Secretary, but most of these matters continue to plague the school today to the point where there is total confusion and chaos at the school,” he said.

Alma Parris was initially set up some 19 years ago as a special school to offer an alternative education to students coming out of the primary system with scores of less than 30 per cent in the Common Entrance Examination.

However, Shepherd said the changeover to a secondary school had contributed to the current problems at the St Peter learning institution which was never intended to train students for certification.

“The intake is small and so there are issues with even creating departments within the school . . . There is also some difficulty in following the secondary school curriculum,” he added.

The BUT boss disclosed that clubs were established so that skills could be taught, but because of the random nature of the selection of students there was chaos.

He further charged that the school-to-work programme, which enabled students to benefit from job attachments at business houses, was discontinued by the current management.

Shepherd told members of the media that members of the teaching staff had also complained they were not allowed to make inputs in the running of the school.

The union boss also reported that a full inspection had been carried out at the school, a report completed and submitted to the Ministry of Education, but no action taken. Furthermore, he said, a curriculum audit was done, but he charged that, once again, the report was “somewhere in the Ministry of Education lying idle”.

In response to concerns raised about the level of violence at the school, Shepherd suggested that one only had to visit Alma Parris on any given day to recognize there was a problem.

Efforts to reach the principal Valdez Francis for comment were unsuccessful.

Chief Education Officer Laurie King, meantime, declined comment when approached by Barbados TODAY this evening at the Ministry of Education.

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