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Aabuthnott Gallimore's chairman under fire

Published:Thursday | June 18, 2015 | 12:00 AMEdmond Campbell
The Reverend Omar Oliphant

Some former members of the board of the Aabuthnott Gallimore High School in St Ann have blasted the chairman of the institution for what they say are his dictatorial style of leadership and disrespect showed to his colleagues, which have resulted in the resignations of at least six members, earlier this year.

The former vice-chairman of the institution, Ethel James, who served the institution as an educator from 1974 to 2008 and later as a member of the board for six years, said she is concerned about the future of the school under the chairmanship of the Reverend Omar Oliphant.

"He claims he is a student of the law, a justice of the peace and a minister of religion. He has been so rude to us," she told The Gleaner.

She said the chairman "talks down to people", saying "I am the chairman and I am in charge".

"Every meeting he comes, he reminds us that he is a student of the law because he is practising on us, (indicating that) we are criminals," a disgruntled former vice-chairman stated.


arrogant response


She told The Gleaner that a group of former board members wrote a letter to the National Council on Education on December 23, 2014, complaining about the chairman's posture.

According to James, the letter stated, among other things, that "the chairman is acting as if he is the total board; he demonstrates much disrespect to members of the board by the arrogant way he responds to queries directed to him during meetings, his style of management is autocratic, and it causes animosity among members."

Furthermore, James argued that, through the instrumentality of the chairman, on June 16, 2014, two members of the board who represented interest groups were dismissed after they were summoned to produce evidence to prove that they were genuinely nominated to the board.

"It is unfortunate that those of us who were there from day one and we tried to build the school from the ground right up have to stand up and watch it crumble," she said.

The former educator and board member said she had lost interest in the education sector because, "education is being run now, if not by politics, by religion".

Executive Director of the National Council on Education, Merris Murray, said the matter was investigated and referred to the School Board Review Committee established by the council to examine issues that school boards faced.

Murray argued that the council found that while the chairman had good intentions towards the school, his leadership style was autocratic.

"We spoke to the chairman about his style of leadership and he agreed that he acted high-handedly. However, we felt he meant well," the executive director stated.

"By the time it went to the committee for review, the persons had resigned, so the issue was whether we should terminate the chairman," Murray added.


letter of complaint


The council received the letter of complaint in late December and the disgruntled former board members resigned from as early as January 19, 2015.

She told The Gleaner that Rev Oliphant "humbly acknowledged his limitations" and committed to improve his leadership skills.

The Gleaner was informed that Rev Oliphant wrote to the minister of education expressing concern about the CSEC performance of the school, collection of money and use of funds to provide support for teachers. Meanwhile, Murray said the council recommended that Rev Oliphant be retained as chairman and that board members who resigned be replaced. The council also recommended that members of the board participate in a training exercise dealing with the question of leadership.

Efforts to get a comment from Rev Oliphant failed as he did not respond to a message left on his voicemail.