Tue | Aug 22, 2017

Principals confused about auxiliary fee policy

Published:Thursday | May 19, 2016 | 5:00 AMAndre Poyser
Ruel Reid

The May 6 meeting, held at the Jamaica Conference Centre (JCC) between Minister of Education Ruel Reid and high school principals to iron out the issues regarding the planned removal of auxiliary fees, has not secured the buy-in of principals as was previously reported.

Some principals have said that they are confused about how the auxiliary fee policy will work as public statements made by the minister, subsequent to the May 6 meeting, are at variance with what was discussed with them.

Coming out of its retreat last weekend, the Jamaica Association of Principals of Secondary Schools (JAPSS), several of whose members were present at the May 6 meeting, has indicated that there is still a lack of clarity regarding the proposed removal of the fees.

A member of the JAPSS executive who asked not to be named said that no agreement was reached between principals and the Ministry of Education, as was reported.

"We are hearing a number of things now that was not said at the conference centre, so the public was misled into thinking that all principals were on board. The minister has misled the media because the principals are not in agreement because they do not know what they are getting and they know that the Government always sends its money short, so there is also a confidence problem and there was not full disclosure at that meeting," the executive member said.

A FINAL POSITION

For its part, the Association of Principals and Vice-principals (APVP) has said it planned to meet with its executive this week to come up with a final position on the matter as fresh concerns have arisen since the May 6 meeting at the JCC.

"One of the things that the minister and the Ministry of Education need to do as it relates to these different policies that are going to be implemented is to first get in touch with principals before making public statements, because the announcement was made about the removal of auxiliary fees and that information was never communicated to principals. When we had that meeting at conference centre all the information was already out there so we just came in at the back end," president of APVP, Linton Weir, told The Gleaner.

Weir agreed that the difference between what is said in the media and what is said to principals is creating some amount of confusion among educators.

Weir, who is also principal at Old Harbour High School, disclosed that he has prepared two separate budgets which reflect the best and worst-case scenarios for the financial status of his school under the policy of auxiliary fee removal. This, he said, was necessary as he was not yet sure of the Government's ability to fully fund schools.

"I have two budgets. I have a budget that is a bare-bones budget and I have a budget with flesh, so I would advise principals to do two budgets because I think it is reasonable to do so," he said.

According to Weir, "We will have to use moral suasion to get some of our parents to pay the optional development fee which will replace auxiliary fees. And I think that is the greatest difficulty a lot of our principals are going to face because of the information that is out there, and that is why it is going to be important for the Government to come through once we are able to substantiate our budget."

andre.poyser@gleanerjm.com