Who will manage the managers?
I received a correction to my last week’s article from the Barbados Government Information Service. The cases of Zika in Barbados are not in the double digits. There were up to Monday seven recoded cases.
If the reported cases of Zika are only seven, then I ask the question more emphatically: why have we been chosen for study on the virus?
I responded to the BGIS correction by taking the opportunity to seek more information on the study, it’s intent and purpose. I, up to publication time, did not receive a response.
If the Barbados Government Information Service has the information about the number of cases recorded, certainly it should have information on the study, who is doing it, and why it is being done. There should be no secrets about the study.
I heard a representative of the Ministry of Health indicate that because of limited resources, pregnant women were being given first priority to testing for Zika. Another story indicated three women so far had been confirmed with the virus, had received counselling and were to get specialized gynaecological care.
What does that special care comprise? How much more will it cost than for normal provision of antenatal care? Are pregnant women covered in the Zika study?
No dreadlocked police officers! That is the continued hardline stance of the Royal Barbados Police Force (RBPF). I am no more in agreement with the stance than
I was previously. In re-evaluating my stance, it brought me to another thought.
We are one month short of a year of the death of Selwyn “Blues” Knight. Blues was taken from his queen, his children and his family by a former police officer, who has since been remanded on charges including the murder of Blues. The family continues to await justice being served.
The accused former police officer reportedly had to be taken from Her Majesty’s Prisons Dodds to the Psychiatric Hospital because of an apparent mental episode.
It dawned on me how easily the top brass of the Royal Barbados Police Force could move through the ranks screening for locks, but I was less sure about how they screen to ensure police officers are psychologically fit to stay in the force.
We can be satisfied that there is some level of screening for entrants to the force, but what is less clearly outlined is how officers are expected to maintain their mental and physical fitness during their tenure.
Everyone wants to take hard stance on everything; and no one has solutions any more.
I have watched the Springer Memorial Secondary School saga unfold over the last few weeks, and I have wanted to say nothing on it. I have wanted to say nothing because I am prejudiced in retaining the good reputation of Springer as a school that has created an educational model, partly based on sports involvement, to produce some of the most rounded and capable Barbadian women.
I must admit, however, that as the issue continues to occupy public attention, there are a few things to note. Some secondary principals in Barbados seem to be unmanageable and ungovernable. The Ministry of Education had attempted, some years ago, to create an evaluation procedure. Owing to some concerns about the process, the evaluation exercise is not completely on stream.
The exercise examines mainly temporary teachers who are evaluated by their superiors. Teachers who are acting in senior or head of department positions may also be caught in the band of those evaluated. However, as far as I know, the re-evaluation exercise for public servants does not extend to appointed principals.
This is an issue. Absolute power corrupts and corrupts absolutely.
We have seen the saga of carte blanche principal power played out in the media before. It results in the disruption of a school culture and the erosion of years of collective work done to build an institution.
In The Alexandra School issue, if there were any changes made to the office of principal and how it is managed and evaluated, these have not yet been made public.
So here we are now with another stand-off and another school; and the underlying issues are the same. A principal has to be able to secure the confidence of a number of stakeholders in order to effectively administer his/her institution. Parents, students, the Ministry of Education, janitors, neighbours living around the school, all these are the various publics
a principal must be able to work with.
Creating manuals and removing idiosyncratic choices in the administration of a school are perhaps the best way to ensure we have fewer of these cases that boil over into the public domain.
When the Public Service re-evaluation was done a few years ago, it resulted in the post education officer being graded lower than that of principal. This removed another layer of “management”, as it was either correctly or incorrectly perceived in the educational sector. The anomaly was never regularized, and I believe the management of the schools is poorer for it.
Even if the education officer was never the “paper boss” of the principal, principals got things in order when they knew education officers were going to be on the premises. This helped to keep the principal “in line”. I accept that the weight of the education officer arguably always had more clout in the primary school setting.
As far as I know, the only whip which can be cracked for secondary school principals is full inspection. This entails the Ministry of Education conducting a complete audit of the institution. And if a full inspection has been done over the last eight years, it has been a very well-kept secret. There is something which makes this undesirable.
The habit in Barbados is that somebody must be right and somebody must be wrong when a scenario like the Springer saga plays out. The way I want to put it to you is that the principal in this matter is a trained professional. Even in the case where the mother erred, or the student was “rude” the principal should have managed. The ministry should have negotiated.
It has got to the point where everybody has taken a hard line, and only the student is suffering. If there is a process where the mother of the child is negotiating transfer with the ministry the child has to, by law, remain on the Springer School’s roll because she is a minor and must be in school.
The Acting Chief Education Officer seems to believe Ellerslie should be acceptable to the mother since it was the child’s second choice at Common Entrance. Somebody, please whisper to the chief that Springer has become a sixth form school since then, and to offer the mother anything but a lateral transfer to another sixth form school can be seen as a slight.
Who is managing the managers? Who will save the grass while the elephants fight?
(Marsha Hinds-Layne is a full-time mummy ad part-time lecturer in communications at the University of the West Indies.