Sat | Feb 22, 2020

Speid: Too many political activists on school boards - JTA head says godlike headmasters also terrorising teachers

Published:Wednesday | January 1, 2020 | 12:28 AMNickoy Wilson/Gleaner Writer

Jamaica Teachers’ Association President Owen Speid is lamenting the make-up of several school boards across the country, saying that political activists are sometimes stymieing operations and using their power to bully teachers in the public education system.

Further, he is charging that some headmasters are running these institutions like gods, paying little regard to teachers’ rights and effecting unreasonable punishments, including dismissals without following due process.

Speid, whose JTA represents public-sector teachers, including principals, is charging that many of these school leaders are acting with impunity.

“Many of these principals are believing that they are gods for true and it is a sad reality out there that we are finding that today, the school system is engrossed with dealing too much with industrial relations matters. We could have spent all of that time and energy in instructional management and instructional leadership and more to do with the children’s learning,” he said yesterday in an interview with The Gleaner.

To drive home his point, the JTA president cited one of many instances in which he believes that protocol was disregarded.

“I have a letter in my possession right now of a teacher who is disgruntled because of how she was terminated without an appraisal being done, and the reason for the termination that the principal here is citing is deficiency. So if deficiency is the reason cited, then [there should be] an appraisal which the teacher would have signed off on, but that is not done. The process is just not being followed,” Speid, the principal of Rousseau Primary School in St Andrew, said.

He said while principals were to blame in some instances, politically run school boards also pose a problem.

“And not just principals now, because it’s not principals who really terminate, it is rubber-stamped sometimes by the board ... . Many times, the blame is put on the principal, but it’s not the principal alone, [it’s] the board,” Speid said.

“We have too many political activists running school boards, and sometimes they try to intimidate because they have power – political kind of power – that they utilise, unwittingly sometimes, but they kind of use it to scare the teachers. We have too many boards made up of political activists.”

Speid, who earlier this year controversially called for a return of the cat-o-nine to rein in indiscipline and lawlessness in the island, also cracked the whip at some teachers, whom he admitted were not innocent.

“Some of the teachers have some blame to take, too. Some of their actions are not as professional as we would have liked them,” he said.

Yesterday, calls to Karl Samuda, the Cabinet minister overseeing the education portfolio, for comment went unanswered.