No secret meetings

Deep discussion by the Broomes team.

Chairman of the Alexandra School’s board of management Keith Simmons, QC, has denied he held a secret meeting with a number of teachers there who were unhappy with the management of Principal Jeff Broomes.

Talk of such a discussion emerged during the ongoing Commission of Enquiry into Alexandra, and one suggestion was that the meeting, called at the prompting of Barbados Secondary Teachers Union President Mary Redman, was held as part of a campaign to oust Broomes.

Simmons, speaking when the commission continued sittings today at the Wildey Gymnasium, said his meeting with Alexandra teachers was not unusual and that he did similarly in 2008 after he became chairman.

Additionally, he said the principal was aware he was holding the meeting with senior teachers represented by the BSTU, and that Broomes was the first person to receive the minutes from the meeting.

Simmons said he held the meeting with heads of department the day after students went on vacation, noting that the teaches were “doing nothing” and the principal was absent.

He recalled the discussion lasted an hour and that it was important, considering industrial action appeared imminent at the St. Peter school. “I think anybody would have done it and I did it,” he said.

“The principal knew that I was going to hold the meeting, and immediately after the meeting I sent the principal the minutes.

“I thought this was a good opportunity for him to see what they were saying and what they intended to do, so I really have no apology to make for holding the meeting. If it was clandestine I wouldn’t have told him anything about it… He got the minutes before anybody else. How could it be clandestine,” he asked?

Simmons said a part of the problem was that the principal appeared unwilling to hear divergent views, and that relations with the school’s most experienced teachers suffered as a result.

“The principal has some very strong views and he is not willing to negotiate or hear other views and buy into them and this is the problem,” he noted. The chairman said teachers seemed to resent the number of “impositions” Broomes placed on them.

They felt as experienced teachers, and in many instances heads of departments, they should have been given more “latitude” to deal with their subject areas, he added.

“I separate the culture of the school from the teaching, I separate the two, and the fact that the results were so good would suggest to me that they did the necessary research for the subject areas,” he said. (SC)

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