Hands off

Talking education – Labour Relations Expert Elsworth Young, Principal of Graydon Sealy Secondary School, Matthew Farley and Human Resource Professional, Dr Akhentoolove Corbin. (EJ)

Outspoken principal and social commentator, Matthew Farley, is worried about non-educators having power over the management of schools.

In fact, he told a gathering of human resource managers today that his fears arose from some of the revelations that emerged from the Commission of Enquiry into the Alexandra School, which had been prompted by repeated industrial action by teachers at that institution.

Farley, head of the Graydon Sealy Secondary School, formerly the Garrison Secondary, told a panel discussion this morning on Lessons from the Alexandra School at the Savannah Hotel, that he was uncomfortable with putting the management of schools in the hands of people who were not educators.

The panel discussion, which was part of the opening of the two-day 15th Annual Conference of the Human Resources Management Association of Barbados, heard from Farley of his concerns about the “blurred roles” of the principal vis-a-vis the board of management, with regards to who really ran the school.

“We have to be careful we are not putting the management of our education into the hands of persons who are not educators,” he said. “The management of education must be left in the hands of educators.”

The principal also called for clarity in the Education Act with respect to the responsibilities and role of the chairman of the board in relation to those of the principal, the deputy principal and the secretary-treasurer.

“So you have the chairman of the board, and these were people … whose roles were questioned and analysed during the commission of enquiry. So the chairman, questions were raised about his role; what is the nature of his role vis-a-vis the role of the principal, what is the nature of the relationship that should exist between the chairman of the board and the principal [and] the deputy principal,” observed Farley.

“They say a deputy is essential, [but] if your deputy and you do not share the same vision, you’ve got problems. Even if you don’t see eye to eye on everything at the basic level, there has to be some common agreement. You have different personalities – that is as it should be – but if there is severe variance between your vision and that of your deputy, you have problems.”

Citing other lessons to be learnt from the Alexandra School affair, Farley suggested that what came up at the enquiry would have implications for the management of secondary schools across Barbados.

He also commented on the issue of management style, one of the most contentious matters between Principal of the Alexandra, Jeff Broomes, and the Barbados Secondary Teachers Union, insisting that there could not be only one management style.

The Graydon Sealy Secondary School head was of the opinion that a principal could not be an autocratic leader, even though there were times it might be necessary.

“There may be times for this, but this cannot be your modus operandi. There are times when your staff expects you to act and when you don’t, you are seen as a weak leader,” noted Farley.

He said an organisation could not be the leader alone, adding that such thinking would be suicidal. His position was that the principal must be responsible for the daily running of the school, with the board of management giving general direction.

“You could put all kinds of things in an act, but in my view, the main problem that seemed to surface at Alexandra is the issue of relationships and you can’t legislate relationships,” Farley stressed. (EJ)

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