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Fall guy

Ministry of education goes after outspoken Combermere teacher

The proverbial axe is likely to fall at Combermere School after all.

However, the target is not the foul-smelling Acacia tree, which was recently cited by principal Vere Parris as the source of recent environmental problems at the Government-run institution, or which President of the Barbados Secondary Teachers Union (BSTU) Mary Redman believes should be chopped down.

Instead, the Ministry of Education has launched an offensive against the outspoken head of the school’s History Department, Anglican priest Reverend Charles Morris, who has been slapped with disciplinary charges.

The action stems from a recent interview he gave to Barbados TODAY in which he spoke publicly about the environmental problems currently being experienced at the school.

So offensive were those comments to top education officials that they have made Morris the lone subject of an internal investigation.

The senior teacher, who has been with Combermere for the past 34 years, has also been ordered to appear before

a disciplinary panel on March 22.

In a letter dated Friday, March 11, a copy of which has been obtained by Barbados TODAY, Morris is accused of “misconduct of a serious nature”.

The letter, signed by Permanent Secretary in the Ministry of Education June Chandler and copied to the Combermere Principal as well as the Chief Personnel Officer, further accuses him of acting in breach of the Code of Conduct and Ethics, as set out in the second schedule of the Public Service Act, Cap 29, which specifically states at paragraph 24 9c that officers shall not “make a statement to the media or allow themselves to be interviewed on questions of public policy or on matters affecting the defence, military resources or diplomatic relations of Barbados without the prior approval of the Minister concerned”.

“I hereby request that you provide a written response to the allegation of misconduct,” said Chandler in her correspondence, which further revealed that a four-member panel, which also includes the Chief Education Officer, the Deputy Chief Education Officer in charge of schools and the Acting Senior Administrative Officer, would be responsible for adjudicating the matter.

When contacted today, a disappointed Morris, confirmed that he was in receipt of the Ministry’s letter, which he said was handed to him by a porter at the school earlier today.

However, while contending that “evil prevails when good men keep silent”, Morris was adamant that he was not guilty of any breach to the Public Service act.

As a teacher and a religious leader he also said he was duty bound to speak the truth, while asking, “Is it now public policy to have a dirty school?”

The Combermere teacher, who was diagnosed in December 2014 with throat cancer, and who has recently been suffering with headaches and sore throat, believes the school situation is partly to blame. And he was angry that no one from the ministry had seen it fit to even inquire about his health situation over the past 15 months.

“Nobody from the ministry ever called me to ask me if I had money to pay for all of this, nobody from the ministry called me to ask me how I was doing, nobody did these things [but] I must sit in silence and suffer?” he questioned.

Rev Charles Morris

Rev Charles Morris

However, Morris, who is now on sick leave until the end of the school term, also revealed that no fewer than 16 of 55 teachers at Combermere were away from school today, on the account of health challenges.

With the situation as it stands, Morris, who was previously cited with misconduct but said the earlier charges were never pursued, said he had no regrets about speaking out publicly, asking, “How can I keep quiet?”.

When contacted this evening, Redman said she was aware of the development.

“We are now dealing with it. The union will be addressing that. I have only had a cursory look at the letter and I now have to have an indepth look at it,” she told Barbados TODAY.

5 Responses to Fall guy

  1. Wee Fu Ping
    Wee Fu Ping March 15, 2016 at 3:43 am

    So much for living in a democracy! This government has taken away every thing, our money…our pension.. our livelihoods.. our children’s future… our self worth.. our dignity and our right to openly express our selves!!.. We’re forced to bite and bear the pain.. We’re walking around with our eyes wide shut!!

  2. Fay Ann
    Fay Ann March 15, 2016 at 4:21 am

    Sir…make noise until the calvary comes!!!If a wrapper row can wake up a whole country…the health issues at our islands schools SHOULD be addressed…a health hazard is not a common cold….it will not go away…our innocent children are at risk…our educators are at risk…it’s high time the truth be spoken. Is it worth it to save a schools image instead of the lives?

  3. Sue Donym March 15, 2016 at 8:14 am

    Dear Rev Morris

    It is not all about you. There are other sick people at that school that we have not enquired about.

    Resources have to be directed to allowing principals and senior teachers to keep children out of the classroom as long as possible, while at the same time meeting with parents hoping to get those same children back in class as required by law.

    Are you suggesting that there is some significance in the fact that almost 30% of teachers are absent on a given day? You are directed to focus on the fact that 70% were present.

    We must inform you that by continuing your illness, you might draw attention to our health institutions and by extension, public policy in that area – another breach. In this regard please not that our current policy mandates that we hug trees, not colleagues.

    Please, no further mention of moves to keep reports secret. Our plan to distract the public is at an advanced but delicate stage

  4. junior March 15, 2016 at 11:49 am

    is tht the best that the Ministry can do?Come on Mr Jones, you are catchinig at straws.

  5. harry turnover March 15, 2016 at 6:18 pm

    This teacher needs to disciplined……all the Principal had to do was i to tell him to pick up and disposed of the garbage in the class room that was shown to the media.
    No need for the Ministry to get involved.


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